|Mulayam Singh Yadav
Lucknow, March 18: Arvind Kejriwal isn’t the only high-profile politician being guided in his choice of constituency by a desire to stop Narendra Modi.
Unlike the Aam Aadmi Party chief, however, Mulayam Singh Yadav is not thinking of taking the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate head-on from Varanasi.
Instead, the Samajwadi Party leader has decided to contest from Azamgarh, 90km from Varanasi, to try and halt the “wave” in eastern Uttar Pradesh that Modi’s candidature in the holy city is predicted to unleash.
Mulayam, however, has an insurance policy: he will also contest from his old turf of Mainpuri, where he had won by a margin of 1.6 lakh votes in 2009.
“Mulayamji will contest from both Azamgarh and Mainpuri. The decision was taken to honour the demand of party leaders and workers,” Samajwadi national spokesperson Ramgopal Yadav announced in Lucknow today.
A senior Samajwadi leader acknowledged that the decision had been influenced heavily by the perception — being voiced loudly by the BJP — that Modi’s presence would set off a pro-BJP upsurge in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s 32 seats.
“The thinking in the party is that this move (Mulayam contesting from the region) will not only help Samajwadi workers fight back Modi’s influence in the region but also help improve our party’s showing in eastern Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
Azamgarh appears a safe enough seat for Mulayam as it has large segments of Muslim and Yadav voters. Besides, nine of the seat’s 10 Assembly constituencies are with the Samajwadis.
The parliamentary constituency, however, is held by Ramakant Yadav of the BJP, who has been re-nominated.
Mulayam had initially picked state minister Balram Yadav as the party candidate from Azamgarh but he apparently expressed his inability to contest.
Last week, Samajwadi circles were abuzz with speculation about Mulayam’s possible candidature from Azamgarh but senior leader Shivpal Yadav issued a denial.
Samajwadi insiders said the final decision was taken soon after the BJP announced Modi’s nomination from Varanasi last Saturday.
“Let’s admit it, with Modi contesting from Varanasi the political landscape has changed. We thought we needed a boost from a senior leader to fight back, else our position might further decline in the region,” a Samajwadi MP said.
Of the 32 parliamentary seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadis now hold a mere six: Chandauli, Ballia, Robertsganj, Jaunpur, Machhlishahar and Allahabad.
There is speculation in party circles that if Mulayam wins from both constituencies, he may vacate Azamgarh and field his younger son Prateek in the by-election.
Prateek has for sometime been eyeing the seat for his electoral debut. From time to time, he marshals people from Azamgarh to travel to Lucknow and shout slogans in his favour.