Lucknow, Nov. 16: The Samajwadi Party today issued its first list of candidates for the general election scheduled in the summer of 2014, sending a message to the UPA not to take its support for granted and that it was ready for polls.
Family got preference in the list of 55 names ' Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats ' that also appears to be aimed at injecting a sense of urgency in the party.
Early elections would suit the Samajwadi Party, shielding it from anti-incumbency sentiment against the Akhilesh Yadav government, which completes one year in March and is already facing criticism for frequent riots in the past six months.
Even if polls are held on schedule, the early announcement gives candidates time to nurture their constituencies. For the Assembly election, the party had released its list of candidates a year in advance.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose prime ministerial ambitions are no secret, has set a target of winning 60 seats out of 80.
Samajwadi's highest tally ever in the state was 38 in 2004, when the party fought in alliance with Ajit Singh's RLD. It won 22 seats in 2009. In the last Assembly election, it won 226 out of the 403 seats ' a little over half, and nowhere near the 75 per cent Mulayam is now targeting.
All the family names figure in the first list, including that of party president Mulayam from Mainpuri, his daughter-in-law Dimple from Kannauj and nephew Dharmendra Yadav from Badaun. Another nephew, Akshay, the son of general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, makes his debut from Ferozabad. Dimple had lost from this seat in a 2010 bypoll, held after Akhilesh vacated it.
Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey has been fielded from Doomariaganj, the seat of Jagadambika Pal, and a minister in the Akhilesh government, Surendra Singh Patel, from Varanasi.
The list was released by Ram Gopal, who is also Mulayam's cousin. The party, he said, has decided to offer tickets to 18 sitting MPs, including Neeraj Shekhar, son of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar.
Although the party has decided not to contest from Rae Bareli and Amethi ' Mulayam had announced early this year that his party would not field candidates against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul ' it is making no concessions for other senior Congress MPs.
Kirti Vardhan Singh, two-time former MP from Gonda, will challenge Union minister for steel Beni Prasad Verma, who left the Samajwadi Party for the Congress in 2009.
The party has also fielded candidates from Baghpat and Mathura in western Uttar Pradesh, a stronghold of the RLD. In 2009, the party had not contested these seats as a goodwill gesture to Ajit. Ajit is with the Congress now.