Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections: As peers sweat, 'these' biggies left out from campaigning

S Kamran HusainUpdated: Friday, February 11, 2022, 11:17 PM IST
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Rampur: Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav waves at the people, during an election campaign rally, ahead of the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, in Rampur, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. | (PTI Photo)

Lucknow: Not all leaders are sweating it out on the campaign trail in the high-stake UP assembly elections. Those missing in action include heavyweights from the BJP, Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

Once star-campaigners for their respective outfits, these ‘biggies’ are absent because they have been given the short-shrift by their bosses for reasons best known to the latter.

Take for instance, the firebrand youth leader of the BJP Varun Gandhi. Now a persona non grata, he was once a poster boy of the BJP in west UP; this time he has not been assigned any role whatsoever, leave alone a berth on party’s star-campaigner list.

An MP from Pilibhit in Lakhimpur Kheri district, Varun has been kept out reportedly due to his harsh criticism of the ruling party on the abolished farm laws and the mowing down incident of farmers. Pushed to the periphery by the party, Varun is frittering away his time on social media and giving interviews to media outlets at the drop of a hat.

Rumours of his new-found proximity to cousins Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka are doing the rounds. But these are perhaps mind games intended to keep Varun’s detractors in the BJP guessing.

To add to the ‘slight,’ mother Maneka Gandhi, BJP MP from Sultanpur, too has been kept out of the campaign.

Amidst reports of his possible return to his erstwhile nest, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Raj Babbar of the Congress has also been missing in action. This, even though Babbar is among the listed star campaigners of the party; ‘‘so was RPN Singh, but look where he is now,” quipped an office-bearer of the UP Congress, requesting anonymity.

The Congress has been struggling to hang on to its top leaders for a while now.

Babbar made his debut in the late 1980s in the Janata Dal. He later switched to the Samajwadi Party. He won the 1999 and the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from Agra. But, in 2006, he was suspended from the Samajwadi Party. Two years later, he joined the Congress. In 2009, Babbar won the by-election from Firozabad. But he lost both the 2014 and 2019 elections.

On the other hand, Congress leaders from other states -- Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, to name a few -- have been active in the election circuit.

As polling moves from west UP to east, another seasoned leader smarting under a ‘snub’ is Shiv Pal Yadav, brother of Mulayam Singh Yadav and once estranged uncle of Akhilesh Yadav, who recently buried the family hatchet and made up with Akhilesh.

Known to wield considerable clout in the Yadav-belt, Shiv Pal, who is contesting from Jaswant Nagar constituency, has so far not shared the dais with nephew Akhilesh in any of the party’s road shows.

The only exception – who has chosen to stay out voluntarily from the poll arena – is BSP supremo Mayawati.

The four-time Chief Minister of UP has been active only on Twitter. She sometimes issues a press note and her second in command in the party, Satish Mishra, has made it clear that neither he nor ‘behenji’ will contest the assembly polls.

There are several others who were at the forefront of their party’s campaign but have vanished with time. It includes the likes of Sri Prakash Jaiswal from the Congress, Ahmad Hasan from Samajwadi Party, Rita Bahuguna Joshi from BJP, etc.

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