The cold war between Uttar Pradesh’s mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, and the Congress took another twist on Monday when the SP nominated sacked Border Security Force (BSF) constable Tej Bahadur Yadav (pictured) as its candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.
Several smaller parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and some Left parties, welcomed the move. They expressed the hope that the Congress would now withdraw its candidate to support Tej Bahadur.
In UP, the SP is in alliance with the BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. As part of this, the SP is to contest the Varanasi seat. It had earlier announced Shalini Yadav as its candidate from Varanasi, while the Congress repeated Ajai Rai.
Shalini is considered a lightweight candidate, and fielded in the anticipation that the Congress might field its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from the seat. However, once the Congress fielded Rai, the SP had a rethink to support Tej Bahadur, who had already filed his nomination as an Independent.
“I was sacked for raising the issue of corruption. My sole objective will be to strengthen and eliminate corruption in the forces,” Tej Bahadur said on Monday.
Tej Bahadur had uploaded a video on social media in 2017 where he complained that poor quality food was being served to the troops in the icy, mountainous region along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. He was subsequently dismissed for “indiscipline”.
Earlier this month, several smaller parties had come together to issue a joint statement that asked Opposition parties to field a common candidate. These included the local unit of the CPI (Marxist), Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Nationalist Congress Party and others.
Varanasi polls on May 19, the last phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The last date of filing of nominations was on Monday. Shalini has not withdrawn her nomination to ensure the SP still has a candidate if Tej Bahadur’s nomination were to be rejected for any reason.
CPI (ML) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya tweeted that his party would support Tej Bahadur. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal congratulated SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.