Explained: Why Akhilesh Yadav chose to contest from Azamgarh

Lalmani Verma
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Sunday he will contest from Azamgarh. (File)

While Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati has announced that she won’t be contesting the Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Sunday he will contest from Azamgarh, the seat won by his father Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2014.

Akhilesh's decision is an attempt to keep the workers as well as the Yadav-Muslim vote base of the party intact in support of the SP-BSP alliance in eastern UP. Muslims, Yadavs and some sections of non-Yadav OBCs have an influential presence in more than half-a-dozen constituencies in the area near Azamgarh, where BSP is contesting as per the seat-sharing arrangement. These constituencies include- Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Salempur, Ghosi, Lalganj, Ambedkarnagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Deoria, Machhlishahr etc.

Voters of these communities and castes also have influence in Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Azamgarh, Ballia and few others in the region where SP is fielding its candidates. Click here for more election news

"In 2014 elections, SP had got votes of these communities and castes and party candidates came either runners-up or at the third position on these seats. SP had won Azamgarh because Mulayam was a heavyweight candidate. But the pision of Muslim votes went in favour of the BJP in many of these seats in 2014. The primary agenda of the alliance is to prevent the pision of votes to defeat BJP," said an SP leader.

As per the seat-sharing arrangement, BSP is contesting on 38 seats, SP on 37 and RLD on three seats (western UP).

Moreover, there is apprehension that Yadav and Dalit voters may not come together in the elections due to local issues. Thus, the candidature of Akhilesh from Azamgarh and joint campaigning of SP-BSP leaders in the constituency have the possibility of uniting the Yadav and Dalit voters. Azamgarh has nearly four lakh Yadav voters, three lakh Muslim voters and around 2.75 lakh Dalit voters.

In 2014, Mulayam Singh Yadav had defeated BJP's Ramakant Yadav by a margin of just 63,000 votes. BSP had fielded a Muslim candidate — Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali — who finished third with 2.66 lakh votes. The BJP candidate received a share of Yadav votes while the BSP candidate had cut into Muslim votes.

"As Akhilesh Yadav himself is contesting this time with BSP support, Muslim and Yadav voters are unlikely to pide. This will ensure that SP will win with a huge margin and that will have an impact in adjoining constituencies as well," said an SP leader. Akhilesh had earlier planned to contest from Kannauj but he changed the plan and fielded his wife Dimple Yadav from that seat.

SP's Azamgarh district president Hawaldar Yadav said Azamgarh had never been a stronghold of SP but Akhilesh's candidature will help SP-BSP alliance in 2019.

An SP leader said Mayawati had last contested an election in 2004 and was elected MP from Akbarpur. Akhilesh contested in 2000, 2004 and 2009 and won. He had resigned from Lok Sabha in 2012.

"If Akhilesh wins from Azamgarh but wishes to prefer state politics after 2022 UP Assembly polls, he could resign from Parliament membership," he said.

Ramkant Yadav won from Azamgarh in 2009 as a BJP candidate and he was elected there in 2004 with a BSP ticket. BSP also won there in 1998. SP won in 1996, 1999 and 2014.