Mulayam counters Modi's East UP foray

Mulayam counters Modi's East UP foray

The decision of Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of Samajwadi Party (SP), to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Azamgarh as his second constituency, is being seen as an attempt to ‘prevent’ the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi from making a dent in the former’s stronghold in the eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is also seen as a ‘desperate’ bid to ‘placate’ Muslims, who form an important voting community for the SP.

Muslims in UP had been firmly behind Mulayam in the 2012 Assembly polls leading to a massive win for the SP. However, following the Muzaffarnagar communal violence they have become disenchanted with the Akhilesh Yadav regime.

Muslims in Azamgarh were displeased with the SP government for not ‘fulfilling’ its electoral promise of releasing youths from the district, who were jailed on terror charges. When the state government tried to release the youths by withdrawing the charges, the courts intervened and nipped the ploy in the bud.

Ulema Council, an Azamgarh-based group, had decided to oppose the SP in the Lok Sabha elections, triggering panic in the party. ‘Rihai Manch’, an outfit formed to campaign for the release of the youths had also slammed the SP on this count.

Azamgarh is situated barely 90 kilometers from Varanasi from where Modi will be contesting. It lies between Varanasi and Gorakhpur, two important towns in eastern UP. A large number of Muslims residing in the Middle East, as well as in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, hail from Azamgarh.

The constituency, has a sizable number of Yadav and Muslim population. It used to be an SP stronghold until BJP nominee Rama Kant Yadav won from here in the 2009. The SP nominee had been pushed to third place.

This time also, the SP was struggling to find a suitable candidate for the seat. Senior SP leader and UP minister Balram Yadav, who hails from the district, had refused to contest from the constituency.

“Mulayam’s candidature from Azamgarh will not only ensure a win here but will also check Modi’s advance into our strong holds,” said Ram Dular Rajbhar, an SP leader in Azamgarh. The region is important for both SP and BJP. “While the SP will want to retain its seats, the BJP will go all out to score big in the region,” said Rajbhar. It remains to be seen if Mulayam is able to stop the ‘Modi Rath’ from steamrolling in eastern UP in the forthcoming polls.

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