Akhilesh picks Assembly seat over LS, hint to BJP: will stay in UP fight

IN A STEP that will boost the morale of the Samajwadi Party in the state, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has decided to retain the Assembly seat he won in the recent polls, giving up his Lok Sabha constituency instead.

Akhilesh had almost single-handedly spearheaded the SP campaign in the polls, emerging as the only real contender against Yogi Adityanath.

In the recent elections, Akhilesh had won the Karhal seat in Mainpuri by 60,000-odd votes, beating BJP MP S P Singh Baghel. It was his first Assembly election. In 2019, he won as MP from Azamgarh; his fourth parliamentary win. In 2012, when he became the CM, he had chosen the MLC route to the Assembly.

SP leaders were apprehensive that Akhilesh might not retain the Assembly seat and prefer the more relaxed parliamentary option. With the BJP already on the offensive, the move would have been seen as the SP chief chickening away from, what is set to be, a heated Assembly floor.

“The decision to hold on to Karhal, despite having just five MPs in Parliament, shows that the SP chief’s priority is to build the party in UP,” a senior leader said.

In an interview to The Indian Express, senior SP leader and Katehari MLA Lalji Verma had said: “It is natural that Akhilesh Yadav become the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.”

The prospect of Akhilesh as Leader of the Opposition means the BJP can’t expect to have an easy run either. Unlike the last term when the SP had 47 MLAs, this time it has 125 in the 403-member House, including six MLAs of ally SBSP and eight of the RLD.

Party leaders said Akhilesh’s presence would also ensure that SP MLAs are disciplined and regularly attend the House.

A senior SP leader welcomed Akhilesh’s decision, saying: “It is a positive signal to MLAs, workers and leaders that the SP chief is not shying away from taking
on the BJP.” He said it would boost the SP’s morale after the poll loss.

Verma said: “As Akhilesh stays in UP, his voice will be heard more and the Opposition’s voice will reach more people, with the media paying attention due to his stature.”

SP leaders said Akhilesh had taken party leaders in Azamgarh and Karhal into confidence before taking the decision. Akhilesh was in Azamgarh on Monday and, a few days ago, met the party leadership in Karhal.

The main criticism directed at Akhilesh has been that he became active in UP only in the last few months before the polls, remaining largely inactive in the five years of BJP rule. His decision to hold on to Karhal will help blunt that charge.

Similarly, jailed SP leader Azam Khan resigned from his Lok Sabha seat (Rampur) on Tuesday to hold on to his Assembly seat of Rampur. With his bail order in the last case being heard by the Allahabad High Court, the 11-time MLA is expected to play a major role in the state Assembly. As one of the SP’s senior-most leaders, he is likely to be among Akhilesh’s chief advisors. Having served as Parliamentary Affairs Minister in SP governments earlier, Khan knows well the workings of the House.

A confidant of Azam Khan said he had sent his resignation through post to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla from Sitapur jail.

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