In a first, Akhilesh Yadav to contest Uttar Pradesh elections
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav has reportedly decided to contest the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections, according to ANI. In November 2021, Yadav had claimed that he will not contest the election and instead concentrate on campaigning in the state. Yadav represents eastern UP's Azamgarh in the Lok Sabha and has never fought a state election.
- The development comes just a few weeks before the much-awaited Uttar Pradesh elections that are set to begin on February 10.
- Uttar Pradesh sends the most legislators to Parliament, making it a crucial target ahead of the 2024 general elections.
- Sources told ANI that pressure on Yadav has increased after the BJP fielded Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.
It remains to be seen which seat Akhilesh Yadav will contest the UP elections from, sources told ANI. They said he could fight from a seat in eastern Uttar Pradesh or a central constituency such as Lucknow. Earlier, when Yadav said that he would not contest the polls, the SP had quickly clarified that the party had not yet made a decision.
Yadav, the Azamgarh MP, had not contested the 2012 or the 2017 UP elections. After the SP's victory in 2012, he was named the UP CM; becoming India's youngest chief minister. He was later elected to the state legislature to retain his CM seat. At the time, Yadav represented the Kannauj parliamentary seat as an MP in the Lok Sabha.
On Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded Adityanath from the Gorakhpur (Urban) seat in eastern UP. "The decision has been made after much deliberation... the final decision (was taken) by the top leadership of the party," Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said. By nominating the priest-politician who is the leader of the Gorakhpur Mutt, the BJP aims for significant gains in this region.
The highly-charged campaigning of the UP election has led to a war of words between the two parties. Akhilesh claimed that the central authority had sent Adityanath home by fielding him from Gorakhpur. "But from where is Akhilesh Yadav contesting the election? Why don't you announce it?" BJP's election co-in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Vivek Thakur, had earlier questioned.
Meanwhile, Aparna Yadav, who is married to Akhilesh Yadav's half-brother joined the BJP earlier on Wednesday. She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had always inspired her. "I now want to try and do better for the country. I have always been very impressed by the schemes of the BJP and I will do my best in the party," she said after joining the party.
Separately, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will campaign for the SP in Uttar Pradesh, SP vice-president Kiranmay Nanda announced on Tuesday. However, Banerjee's Trinamool Congress will not compete in the election, Nanda said. "Mamata Banerjee will hold virtual campaigns along with SP president Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow and Varanasi," he said. Banerjee will be in Lucknow on February 8 for a virtual campaign.