Weeks Before Lok Sabha Polls, Samajwadi Party's Flip-Flop In 9 UP Seats

New Delhi:

The Samajwadi Party has added another notch in its revolving door of candidates for the Lok Sabha election after replacing its Meerut pick for a second time. The SP first chose Bhanu Pratap Singh to contest a seat that has voted for the BJP since 2004 but protests by the party’s local cadre prompted a change. In came Atul Pradhan – the Sardhana MLA – but his ticket was swiftly passed to Sunita Verma.

Mrs Verma – who was expelled from rivals Bahujan Samaj Party in 2019 with her husband, two-time MLA Yogesh Verma – filed her nomination papers Thursday afternoon.

Mr Pradhan – whose brief tenure as the Meerut candidate drew jibes from RLD boss Jayant Chaudhary – has toed the party line, saying, “Whomever the party chooses, I will support their nomination.”

READ | “Lucky Few”: Jayant Chaudhary Mocks Akhilesh Yadav’s Flip-Flop

Replacing candidates in the run-up to an election isn’t uncommon.

In some cases it may be because the party has reassessed its chances of winning a seat. The second Meerut change was for many reasons, one of which was because Mrs Verma is from the Dalit community and the city is home to over four lakh Dalits. 

The former Mayor of Meerut, Mrs Verma will take on one of the BJP’s newer recruits – actor Arun Govil, who played Lord Ram in the popular Ramayan series on TV.

However, multiple changes, for the same seat, are uncommon and may be seen as signs a party is struggling to match potentially winning candidates with just the right seat.

Apart from Meerut, the SP has run into difficulties in Moradabad, Rampur, and Budaun.

In Moradabad, the Samajwadi Party initially nominated ST Hassan, but later Ruchi Veera’s name came up. There were protests by local cadre. Confusion prevailed as both filed papers.

Finally Ruchi Veera’s candidature was confirmed.

Over in Rampur – the bastion of Azam Khan, where the jailed leader still has immense sway – there was a brief face-off between Akhilesh Yadav’s pick and that of Asim Raja from Azam Khan’s camp.

Finally, Mr Yadav’s candidate, Asim Raza, filed the nomination, but this was settled only on Wednesday, the penultimate day of filing papers.

Similar chaos prevailed in Budaun, where Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin, Dharmendra, was given the ticket that was first also wanted by his uncle, Shivpal Yadav, before he demanded it for his son, Aditya.

READ | Who Is Dharmendra Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s Azamgarh Pick?

The Budaun dilemma has not yet been settled. Technically the candidature is held by Shivpal Yadav, but sources indicate it will most likely be settled in favour of his son.

Apart from these, Mr Yadav’s party has also changed out candidates for the Baghpat, Bijnor, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Misrikh, and Sambal seats, as well as for Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. 

The change in Sambal – a seat the SP won in 2019 – was necessitated because the MP, Shafiqur Rahman Barq, died at the age of 93.

The Samajwadi Party is contesting the vast majority of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats – it received 63 as part of its deal with the Congress, which will contest 17, including its family bastions of Amethi and Raebareli. UP will vote in each of the seven phases of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

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