Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav will contest next month’s Assembly election – his first – from the Karhal seat in Mainpuri district, which is in his family’s home turf.
Party sources gave out this information a few days ago, but it was confirmed today by Mr Yadav’s uncle and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav, who said his nephew would win with “record” votes.
Karhal has voted for a Samajwadi Party candidate in every election since 1993, except in 2002, when the BJP flipped it. It returned to Mr Yadav’s party in 2007 and is currently held by Sobaran Yadav.
It is also one of five Assembly seats that make up the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, which elected Mr Yadav’s father, and Samajwadi Party founder, Mulayam Singh Yadav to the Lok Sabha five times.
Karhal is just 5 km from Saifai, the Yadav family’s home village.
Confirmation that Akhilesh Yadav – who is leading a ‘rainbow’ alliance of regional parties to oust the ruling BJP – will stand in his first state election follows weeks of speculation that he might do so.
In November, he said he would not contest the election. His party, however, had other ideas and rushed to clarify that a final decision would be taken by the collective.
A month later he told NDTV: “If the party wants, I will contest the election. I had said earlier too that if the party decides, I will contest the election in 2022.” He made similar statements over the next few weeks, heightening buzz that he could make his Assembly polls debut this time.
Sources told NDTV the BJP’s move to field Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from his Gorakhnath stronghold had ramped up pressure on Mr Yadav and played a big role in his taking the plunge.
Both Mr Yadav and Adityanath will make their state polls bow from their respective strongholds, with Karhal voting before Gorakhnath.
Mr Yadav is currently a Lok Sabha MP from UP’s Azamgarh and this week said he needed to ask his constituents’ for “permission” to give up the seat if he wins this election.
He told NDTV last month that he expects a “pincer” movement – of angry farmers in the western part of UP and allied regional parties in the east – to oust the ruling party.
Akhilesh Yadav isn’t the only high-profile debutant in this election – Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a five-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur, will contest from one of the seats in that constituency.
The prospect of a third equally high-profile debut made the rounds yesterday after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said she is undecided on standing for election. That was after one of her comments was widely interpreted as being her party’s Chief Minister candidate.
However, Ms Gandhi Vadra later clarified to NDTV that her comment about being the Chief Minister candidate was a “tongue-in-cheek” remark and that she didn’t yet know if she will be contesting polls.
UP votes in a seven-phase poll that begins February 10, with results due exactly one month later.