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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lok Sabha bypoll | Akhilesh missing from campaigning, party defends: ‘it’s all about strategy’

Instead of touring the constituencies, Akhilesh merely issued an appeal urging voters to support the party candidates in both the seats.

The Samajwadi Party has played down Akhilesh Yadav's absence, both from Rampur and Azamgarh, saying that party leaders and cadres have assured him of victory. (File/Express)

Even as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed rallies for the BJP candidates in Azamgarh and Rampur for the June 23 Lok Sabha bypoll, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav stayed away from campaigning. Instead of touring the constituencies, Akhilesh merely issued an appeal urging voters to support the party candidates in both the seats.

Both the seats – considered the stronghold of Samajwadi Party with the dominance of the party’s traditional votebank of Muslims and Yadavs – were won by the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls – Akhilesh in Azamgarh and  Azam Khan in Rampur. Their resignation from their respective Lok Sabha seats to continue as MLA after winning in the recent Assembly elections necessitated the bypoll.

While the SP has fielded Azam’s close aide Asim Raja in Rampur, it has nominated Akhilesh’s cousin and former MP Dharmendra Yadav.

However, Akhilesh’s absence from the campaign did not go unnoticed. It is not like that Akhilesh has not campaigned in Lok Sabha bypolls in the past. He had addressed rallies in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in March 2018, when the SP-BSP combine defeated BJP there in the Lok Sabha bypolls.

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But the party this time played down Akhilesh’s absence, both from Rampur and Azamgarh, saying that party leaders and cadres have assured him of victory.

“Both Akhileshji and voters of Azamgarh and Rampur trust each other. He had issued an appeal to the voters and monitored the campaign and poll-related organisational activities from Lucknow… Party’s functionaries, workers and MLAs in Azamgarh have assured our party chief that they will look after the campaign and ensure the win, and need not go there,” party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said.

Another SP leader said that Akhilesh did not take part in the bypoll campaign “as part of a strategy”. “Since national leaders of other political parties like BJP and BSP were not canvassing, it was not suitable for Akhilesh–  who is our party’s national president – to campaign in the bypoll. Also, both Azamgarh and Rampur are strongholds of the SP,” said a senior party leader.

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With BSP only contesting in Azamgarh after deciding not to field its candidate in Rampur, and Congress giving the bypoll a miss, the Samajwadi Party is the only opposition party in the fray in both the seats against the ruling BJP.
BSP chief Mayawati also did not campaign. She also issued a written appeal to the voters of Azamgarh, asking them to defeat both the SP and BJP.

In contrast, the BJP has gone full throttle in its campaign. CM Adityanath addressed two rallies in each of the two constituencies and deployed 16 ministers of his cabinet in Rampur to wrest the seats from the SP. In Rampur, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, an OBC candidate, against SP’s Asim Raja, while the party has once again nominated Bhojpuri actor Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirahua” in Azamgarh. He had lost to Akhilesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by a huge margin.

First published on: 22-06-2022 at 08:55:04 am
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