On a day Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav filed his nomination from Karhal Assembly constituency in Mainpuri district for the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP sprung a surprise by fielding Union Minister of State Satya Pal Singh Baghel against him.
Baghel, currently an MP from Agra, also filed his nomination papers on Monday soon after Akhilesh submitted his papers.
However, this would not be the first time that Akhilesh Yadav and Baghel will be facing each other in an electoral contest. The two had contested from Firozabad in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Baghel had then lost to Akhilesh.
Baghel, 61, a former police officer, was part of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s security team, and was made the president of Mulayam Singh Youth Brigade in 1992. Mulayam introduced him into politics and fielded him in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections from Jalesar. Baghel won the election and repeated the feat twice in 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket.
After the seat was scrapped in the delimitation exercise, the SP refused to field him from Firozabad, and gave the ticket to Akhilesh Yadav instead. Baghel then joined BSP and contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Firozabad where he was defeated by Akhilesh.
A year later, he was sent to Rajya Sabha by the BSP. He joined the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and lost to SP’s Akshay Yadav — son of SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav — from Firozabad. In 2015, the BJP appointed him the national president of its OBC Morcha.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, he contested from Tundla — a Scheduled Caste (reserved) seat — as he is a member of Dhangar sub-caste and defeated BSP’s Rakesh Babu. He was inducted in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet. Two years later, he was elected as an MP from Agra — a reserved constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Baghel the portfolio of MoS (Law and Justice) last July.
Meanwhile, after filing the nomination, Akhilesh Yadav said that he chose to contest the election because he wanted to “stay ahead” of CM Yogi Adityanath.
This will be Akhilesh’s first contest in an Assembly election. In 2012, he had chosen the route of Legislative Council membership to become chief minister. The election will write the country’s “history”, Akhilesh said, appealing to people to defeat “negative politics”.