The Samajwadi Party on Saturday confirmed that party chief Akhilesh Yadav will contest the Assembly poll, his first, from Karhal constituency in Mainpuri district, which is in his family’s home turf.
Karhal has voted for Samajwadi Party candidates in every election since 1993, except in 2002, when the BJP wrested it. It returned to the SP in 2007 and is currently held by Sobaran Yadav.
By contesting from Karhal, the current and long-time Lok Sabha seat of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh is trying to secure his party’s fortress of the Yadav belt where the BJP has made inroads.
Buoyed by the success of the huge turnout in Vijay Rath Yatra, Akhilesh had decided not to contest the Assembly election and concentrate on campaigning. Two events, however, forced him to change the strategy — ban of campaigning by the EC (now extended till January 30) due to the third wave of Covid-19 pandemics, and BJP deciding to field Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.
In a loud and clear message to the electorate that the BJP is leading the battle from the front, the saffron party announced Yogi’s name in the very first list of its candidates even when the polling in Gorakhpur will be held in the sixth phase of election on March 3.
Karhal constituency has a high population of Yadavs. The SP won it in 2017 with a margin of more than 38,000 votes despite the BJP wave in the State. Karhal town is just a 15-minute drive from the Yadav family’s native village, Saifai, in the Etawah district. With Akhilesh taking the plunge into Assembly elections, the SP is trying to send a larger message in the entire Yadav belt from Firozabad to Kannauj to rally behind the party in these elections.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, despite an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party lost in Yadav-belt stronghold seats of Firozabad, Budaun, Etawah and Kannauj.
The first two parliamentary seats were won by it in the 2014 general elections. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the SP won just one out of five seats in Firozabad district, one out of six seats in Budaun, one out of three in Etawah district and one out of three in Kannauj district. The BJP managed to win one out of four seats in Mainpuri district too.
The Samajwadi Party feels that with Akhilesh’s candidature from Karhal and his patch-up with uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav, the party can reclaim its stronghold area from the BJP. However, the BJP is in no mood to let that happen.
Akhilesh’s uncle Hari Om Yadav, the sitting MLA from Sirasganj in Firozabad district which is the only seat the SP won in that district in 2017, has joined the BJP and will contest the seat on a BJP ticket. The ruling party has also put up former IPS officer and Dalit face Asim Arun from Kannauj, currently an SP seat.
BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi points out that even in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency held by Mulayam, the victory margin had come down to 94,000 votes in 2019 from more than 3.21 lakh votes in 2014 despite Mayawati being in alliance with the SP in 2019 and making a personal appeal to voters for Mulayam’s victory.
The BJP has not announced a candidate from Karhal against Akhilesh.