Looking to bolster SP’s base in eastern U.P., Akhilesh warms up to the Ansaris in election year

The move comes following the SP’s former ally, SBSP, joining the BJP-led NDA last year and the BSP maintaining its stand of going solo in the parliamentary poll

January 14, 2024 01:30 am | Updated 01:30 am IST - Lucknow

The Samajwadi Party plans to field BSP MP Afzal Ansari from Ghazipur in the Lok Sabha election.

The Samajwadi Party plans to field BSP MP Afzal Ansari from Ghazipur in the Lok Sabha election. | Photo Credit: PTI

With the dates for the Lok Sabha election set to be declared soon, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has hinted at mending ties with the Ansari family that wields influence in Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh) to strengthen its electoral prospects in the region.

The move comes following the SP’s former ally, the Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) with influence over Rajbhar votes in eastern U.P., joining the BJP-led NDA last year and the BSP maintaining its stand of going solo in the parliamentary poll.

Jo aap soch rahe ho, vahi baat hai (The matter is exactly what’s on your mind),” SP chief Akhilesh Yadav recently told reporters in Ballia when asked if the party plans to field BSP MP Afzal Ansari from Ghazipur in the election. Mr. Yadav and senior SP leaders attending the wedding of Mr. Ansari’s daughter had also fuelled the buzz.

‘Need united Oppn.’

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Ansari said he wants a united Opposition to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. “I am thankful to Akhileshji for making such a statement. The recent Assembly election results have established that the SP is the most powerful Opposition force in the State.”

The SP wants to utilise the Ansari family’s influence in the parliamentary seats in Purvanchal and the districts of Ghazipur, Varanasi, Ballia and Mau against the BJP, according to Shashikant Pandey, professor, Department of Political Science at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow. “Akhilesh Yadav’s statement is self-explanatory. For political parties, electoral interest is paramount. The statement is kind of a feeler,” he said.

Both Mr. Ansari and his brother, Mukhtar, have served as five-time MLAs from Ghazipur and Mau, respectively. Two other members of the family were elected as MLAs in the 2022 Assembly poll.

Building ties

“For the BJP, eastern U.P. with its sizeable Muslim, OBC and Dalit voters posed a challenge in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. The party lost the Ghosi, Ghazipur, Azamgarh and Jaunpur seats to the SP-BSP alliance. Since the BJP has now strengthened itself in the region by allying with the SBSP, the SP is also trying to build ties with influential players like the Ansaris,” Mr. Pandey said.

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