Azam Khan aide, Akhilesh’s cousin are SP’s candidates for Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha byelection

Samajwadi Party fields Asim Raja from Rampur while Dharmendra Yadav will contest from Azamgarh

June 06, 2022 03:40 pm | Updated 03:43 pm IST - LUCKNOW

A close aide of senior MLA Azam Khan was on Monday declared the candidate of the Samajwadi Party (SP) for the Lok Sabha byelection in Rampur while in Azamgarh the party decided to field former MP Dharmendra Yadav, a cousin of SP president Akhilesh Yadav.

Asim Raja, Rampur city SP president, was given the green signal as the party’s nominee in a meeting conducted by Mr. Khan on the last day for filing nominations. The lack of clarity on the SP candidates till the last minute had built up suspense on the possible names, including Mr. Khan’s wife Tazeen Fatima from Rampur.

Mr. Raja has been a nagarpalika member but has never contested any election, said a source in Rampur.

In Azamgarh, the SP has banked on a trusted candidate in the form of Mr. Dharmendra Yadav, a three-time former MP, who won from Budaun in Rohilkhand region in 2009 and 2014, but lost in 2019 despite support from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Mr. Dharmendra Yadav is the son of SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother Abhay Ram. A product of the Allahabad University, Mr. Dharmendra Yadav is popular among youth and is known for raising issues related to ‘social justice’ and students.

In 2019, it was Sanghamitra Maurya, the BJP candidate and daughter of Swami Prasad Maurya, who defeated him.

Azamgarh constituency is dominated by the Yadav, Muslim and Dalit communities. In the last three decades, most of the winners have been Yadavs, with a Muslim, Akbar Ahmad Dumpy, winning twice, in 1998 and 2008. Mr. Mulayam Singh has himself been an MP from this constituency in east Uttar Pradesh.

Mr. Akhilesh Yadav won the seat in 2019.

The byelections in Azamgarh and Rampur were necessitated after the incumbent MPs Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Mr. Khan won in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. While Mr. Akhilesh Yadav was elected from Karhal in Mainpuri, Mr. Khan, who was recently released from jail, is the current MLA from his traditional Rampur Sadar seat.

The SP, which faces a mammoth task of challenging the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, first has to defend these two seats.

In Azamgarh, Mr. Dharmendra Yadav will be in a triangular contest against the BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav, popularly known as Nirahua, and Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali of the BSP.

Nirahua is a popular Bhojpuri actor who stood second against Mr. Akhilesh Yadav in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Mr. Alam is a former two-time MLA of the BSP from Mubarakpur seat in Azamgarh and was one of the richest legislators in the State.

By fielding a strong Yadav candidate to replace its party president, the SP has attempted to negate Mr. Alam’s influence especially among the Muslim community as well as reassure the core Yadav community, whose numbers matter in the constituency.

The BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi in Rampur. Mr. Lodhi, former SP MLC, joined the BJP in January accusing the SP of being anti-OBC and anti-Dalit. Mr. Lodhi has contested the Lok Sabha election on BSP ticket in the past though unsuccessfully.

Mr. Lodhi and Mr. Raja will be locked in a bi-polar contest as both the BSP and the Congress are not contesting the seat. In fact, the Congress on Monday said it would not contest either of the two seats.

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