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Buoyed by inductions, Akhilesh now faces ticket claims from turncoats, SP aspirants

With a slew of MLAs from BJP and BSP joining SP, which has also tied up with seven smaller parties, Akhilesh Yadav is now bracing to deal with their competing demands for election tickets in many UP constituencies, which already have claimants from his own party

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow |
Updated: January 15, 2022 7:48:27 am
Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav during his 'Vijay Rath Yatra' ahead of 2022 UP assembly elections, in Lucknow. (PTI)

The Samajwadi Party (SP)’s campaign might have been boosted by the induction of a slew of MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including ministers, and other parties into its fold in the run-up the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, but SP president Akhilesh Yadav will now have to deal with the formidable task of ticket-distribution in their constituencies which already have many existing aspirants from his own party.

The Nakur Assembly constituency in Saharanpur district is a case in point. Dharam Singh Saini, who quit his ministerial position in the Yogi Adityanath government to join the SP, is a second-term MLA from Nakur and is a leading claimant for this seat in the upcoming polls.

However, former Congress leader Imran Masood, who recently quit his party to switch to the SP, was the runner-up against Saini on the Nakur seat both in 2017 and 2012 Assembly elections. Masood, who met Akhilesh earlier this week, is also a strong candidate in the race for the SP ticket from this constituency.

Apart from Saini and Masood, there are a numbers of local SP workers who are also aspirants for the party ticket from Nakur, with their claims being based on the fact that they have remained with the party and worked on the ground even when it has been out of power since 2017.

This is not an isolated case. For Akhilesh will have to face a similar situation in over 18 Assembly seats where sitting MLAs of the BJP and BSP have either joined the SP in recent days or are headed to the party. Also, Akhilesh has forged alliances with seven smaller parties, which are also vying for seats for their respective candidates. This may create a tricky situation for Akhilesh.

The SP’s Saharanpur district president Chandrashekhar Yadav admitted that both Saini and Masood were claimants for the ticket from Nakur and that several party workers were also demanding the ticket from the constituency. “Those who are joining SP, they too were aware of this situation. Party national president (Akhilesh) is managing everything by assuring to take care of them once our government is formed,” Yadav said.

He said Saini, an OBC leader, is likely to contest from Nakur in the polls. Masood, a prominent Muslim leader, had lost against Saini by less than 5,000 votes in the past two elections.

UP’s prominent OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya, who quit the Adityanath Cabinet and the BJP to join the SP, is a sitting MLA from the Padrauna constituency. The SP had stood fourth in Padrauna in 2012 and had given the seat in 2017 to alliance partner Congress, which finished third in the polls. Maurya would be an obvious choice for the SP in Padrauna. However, conceding the claim of Maurya’s son Utkrist for a ticket from a different constituency will not be easy for Akhilesh.

Utkrist had lost in Unchahar to the SP’s Manoj Pandey both in 2012 and 2017 Assembly elections. He had contested as a BSP nominee in 2012, while in 2017 he was a BJP candidate. On his part, Pandey has also organised “intellectuals meets” in recent weeks to make an SP outreach for Brahmins.

BSP veteran and sitting MLA from Akbarpur, Ram Achal Rajbhar has joined the SP and organised a big rally in a show of strength a few weeks ago. In 2017, Rajbhar had defeated the SP’s Ram Murti Verma who had got elected from there in the 2012 polls.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Verma confirmed that he has demanded party ticket from Akbarpur and that Rajbhar too was claiming it from there. “Party national president will decide who will contest,” Verma said.

Similar is the situation in the Katehri constituency, with sitting MLA Lalji Verma, who quit the BSP to join the SP, leading the race for the party ticket, followed by senior SP leader Jaishankar Pandey, who had finished third in 2017 there.

Another BJP MLA who quit the saffron party to join the SP is Roshanlal Verma, who represents the Tilhar constituency in Shahjahanpur district. A three-term MLA, Verma had defeated the Congress’s Jitin Prasada in the 2017 polls, when the SP and the Congress had an alliance.

“At least 20 leaders of SP are demanding ticket from Tilhar. But whatever party president will decide, everyone will follow that,” said Tanveer Ahmed, the SP’s Shahjahanpur district president.

Another BJP minister and OBC leader, Dara Singh Chauhan, who resigned from the BJP government and is now set to join the SP, is currently an MLA from the Madhuban constituency in Mau district. He may be a first-time legislator from Madhuban but due to his high-profile political career and seniority the SP will be under pressure to give priority to his claim while selecting its candidate on this seat.

Other such seats where sitting MLAs from other parties have joined the SP fold include Bhinga, Sidhauli, Pratappur, Handiya, Dholana, Mungra Badshahpur, Chillupar, Sitapur, Khalilabad, Bilsi and Nanpara.

The SP will also have to accommodate ticket aspirants of alliance partners — including the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP), Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Janwadi Party Socialist, Mahan Dal, Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) and NCP — in various constituencies across the state.

The SP declared a couple of days ago that the NCP’s K K Sharma will be a joint candidate of the SP-NCP alliance in Anupshahr in Bulandshahr district. In 2017, the SP’s Himayat Ali had finished third on this seat.

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