LUCKNOW: Putting speculations to rest, the BJP on Tuesday announced the candidature of Raghuraj Singh Shakya and Akash Saxena for Mainpuri and Rampur bypolls necessitated following the demise of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and disqualification of SP veteran Azam Khan from UP assembly, respectively. The saffron outfit also named Raj Kumari Saini, wife of disqualified BJP MLA Vikram Saini, from Khatauli Assembly seat in Muzaffarnagar.
Raghuraj, 52, happens to be the former SP MLA from Etawah and is known to be close to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav. Shakya, who will take on Akhilesh’s wife Dimple in Mainpuri bypoll, had resigned from the SP following the roiling rift in the Yadav clan in 2016. He joined Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) floated by Shivpal in 2017, before moving to the saffron camp just before the 2022 Assembly elections.
BJP’s choice of Raghuraj Shakya mirrors its strategy in Rampur Lok Sabha bye-elections when it fielded SP turncoat Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi who eventually went on to defeat SP candidate and Azam’s longtime associate Asim Raja by a margin of 42,000 votes. Of the over 17 lakh electorate in Mainpuri, Shakyas form around 3.5 lakh of the voters, as against around 4.5 lakh voters from the Yadav community. Experts said that the BJP will attempt to consolidate the non-Yadav non-Muslim voters in a bid to lend a tough fight to Dimple.
Raghuraj replaces Prem Singh Shakya who contested against Mulayam in 2019 Lok Sabha elections but lost by a margin of over 74,000 votes. This will be the second time when he will be trying his luck for a parliamentary seat. In 2009, Raghuraj contested from Fatehpur Sikri on an SP ticket but could garner only 15.7% votes, losing out to BSP’s Seema Upadhyay. Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar, too, had contested on a Congress ticket from the seat but he came in second while cornering over 28% votes.
In Rampur, the BJP has fielded Akash Saxena, who was the main complainant in the hate speech case against Azam that led to his disqualification from UP Assembly. He had contested against Azam in the 2022 Assembly elections but lost by a margin of over 55,000 votes. A known baiter of the Khan family, Akash had also complained against Azam’s son Abdullah Azam accusing him of submitting the wrong date in the birth certificate while contesting 2017 Assembly elections from Suar. The Allahabad high court eventually set aside Abdullah’s assembly membership with effect from December 16, 2019.
BJP sources said that the party sought to field Akash to keep up the pressure on Azam and his family. Speculations were rife that SP may field Azam’s wife Tazeen Fatima – like it did in 2019 when Azam vacated the Rampur assembly seat after getting elected to the Lok Sabha. BJP sources said that the party sought to groom Akash as the other electoral pole in Rampur which otherwise has a sizable population of Muslims.

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