Lucknow: Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Union minister Maneka Gandhi are among key contestants in the second-last phase of polling in 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. Polling will be held in Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkarnagar, Shrawasti, Domariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabirnagar, Lalganj, Jaunpur, Machchlishahr, Bhadohi and Azamgarh constituencies in Purvanchal region of the state. The BJP had won 13 of these 14 constituencies in the 2014 LS election. The only exception was Azamgarh, won then by SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav.
However, the BJP had to bite the dust in the bypolls in Phulpur and Gorakhpur constituencies last year. While, the anti-BJP alliance would like to retain its grip over both the seats, the saffron party is looking to wrest them from the opposition. Their importance can be gauged from the fact that Gorakhpur was represented by Yogi Adityanath in Lok Sabha from 1998 to 2017, before he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. In Azamgarh this time, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to retain father’s seat against Bhojpuri film star Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ of BJP.
In 2016, Akhilesh Yadav had conferred the state’s prestigious Yash Bharti award on Nirahua, who says that he too was getting a good response from youth and the middle-income group in the constituency. The SP chief’s decision to contest from his father’s bastion is being touted as a move to consolidate the Yadav, Dalit and Muslim voters in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh.