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Uttar Pradesh: On SP turf, Shivpal Yadav throws down gauntlet to take on nephew

In the 2017 polls, the BJP had won 312 seats in the 403-member House.Known for its bangle and glass chandelier industries, Firozabad, with its high Yadav and Muslim population has been an SP bastion.

Former Samajwadi Party leader and founder of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) Shivpal Singh Yadav has announced that he will contest against his nephew Akshay Yadav in the general elections from Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad Lok Sabha constituency, making the contest in the SP stronghold a three-way fight.

Apart from Shivpal’s party and the SP, the BJP also fancies its chances in the seat following its 2017 Assembly polls performance when it had won four of the five Assembly segments in Firozabad — Tundla, Jasrana, Firozabad and Shikohabad — followed by election to the mayor’s office.

In the 2017 polls, the BJP had won 312 seats in the 403-member House.

Known for its bangle and glass chandelier industries, Firozabad, with its high Yadav and Muslim population — comprising four lakh and two lakh voters, respectively — has been an SP bastion for the better half of the past two decades and the party has been allotted the seat in its arrangement with the BSP. Now, courtesy this tie-up, the 1.75 lakh Jatav Dalit votes in the seat may also go to the SP.

Incumbent MP Akshay Yadav, the son of SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, is likely to be the party’s candidate from Firozabad. Sources say Ram Gopal, a Rajya Sabha member, had expressed a wish to contest too, from Sambhal, but dropped the idea after Shivpal’s announcement, to focus on his son’s win.

Shivpal, who is the younger brother of SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, was sacked from the state cabinet in 2016, after his relationship with nephew and then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and cousin Ram Gopal soured. In October 2017, he was left out of the 55-member national executive that was formed by Akhilesh. Ram Gopal was appointed the principal general secretary.

Firozabad shares its boundaries with Etah, which was won by the BJP’s Rajveer Singh, son of incumbent Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, and Mainpuri, from where SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav won. After the elections, he made way for his grand-nephew Tejpratap Singh Yadav from there.

A reserved seat till 2004, Firozabad was notified as an unreserved constituency following the 2008 delimitation. In 2009, Akhilesh had contested from here apart from Kannauj, and won both. He had chosen to vacate Firozabad citing his higher victory margin in Kannauj. However, in the by-election that followed, Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav had lost to the Congress’s Raj Babbar, in her poll debut.

“Two factors played a role in Babbar’s win. First, the Congress was ruling at the Centre and the locals had to elect an MP for the next five years. The second factor was Babbar’s Bollywood connection. Actors including Salman Khan and Nagma campaigned for him, attracting huge crowds in public meetings,” says Vipin Yadav, an SP leader from Firozabad, explaining the party’s only defeat since 1999 from the seat.

Before delimitation, the BJP had won Firozabad in 1996 and 1998, while the Congress had emerged victorious in 1962, 1971 and 1984.

Expressing confidence that the BJP would win Firozabad this time, party leader Pawan Dixit said, “If Shivpal contests, he will cut Yadav votes of the SP and increase the BJP’s chances of winning. Also, two prominent Yadav leaders, Ramveer Singh Yadav and his son Amol Yadav, left the SP a year ago and are now with the BJP. Their presence will also draw Yadav votes to the party.”

Incidentally, Shivpal’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) is also hopeful of an alliance with the Congress, which has been left out of the SP-BSP coalition.

Congress’s Firozabad district president Harishankar Tiwari said, “Shivpal’s contesting the elections will only damage SP-BSP alliance up to some extent. Congress will contest the polls alone as party workers do not want an alliance in 2019. The party suffered in the 2017 Assembly elections because of its alliance with SP. But now, we have regained our strength under the leadership of general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and state in-charge Jyotiraditya Scindia.”

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