On the eve of the second phase of voting in this year’s Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief and former Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed that he will contest from Kannauj.

The sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Karhal, Yadav filed his nomination from Kannauj last Thursday. Soon after, the ruling party contestant Subrata Pathak in Kannauj had called the electoral contest with Yadav a cricket match between India and Pakistan.

Pathak’s remark provoked senior SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav to suggest that crazy people like Pathak should not contest parliamentary elections. “If he said that then he is mad. He should be sent to a lunatic asylum. Crazy people should not contest elections,” Ram Gopal added.

Votes will be cast in eight Lok Sabha constituencies on Friday April 26, including in Amroha, Meerut, Mathura, Baghpat, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, and Bulandshahar. Kannauj will vote in the fourth phase on May 13.

Yadav has represented Kannauj three times in the Lok Sabha, a constituency that had also voted for his wife Dimple in the past. Dimple lost Kannauj in 2019 to Pathak. Kannauj was a SP stronghold till Pathak won it from Dimple with about 14,000 votes in 2019.

The SP is contesting the elections in alliance with the Congress within the I.N.D.I.A. bloc of opposition parties. Out of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats the SP is contesting 67 seats while the Congress is battling for 17 seats including Amethi and Rae Bareli.

Will He, Won’t He?

Whether Rahul Gandhi will contest the election from Amethi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from Rae Bareilly is still not confirmed. After casting his vote in the Kerala constituency of Wayanad, Gandhi is expected to visit Amethi today. Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad but will he contest from Amethi as well is not clear.

Nominations for Amethi are open till May 3, and according to whispers, Gandhi may file his papers after the Wayanad polling on Friday. Amethi goes to the polls in the fifth phase of voting on May 20.

However there are reports that Gandhi's home in Amethi’s Gauriganj is being cleaned up, making his followers hopeful that he will contest from the Congress bastion that was lost to him in 2019.

Meanwhile, Amethi was amused to wake up last Wednesday to see posters of Robert Vadra outside the Congress office in Amethi. On the poster were blazed slogans like, “‘Amethi ki janta karey pukar, Robert Vadra abki baar’ (people of Amethi want Robert Vadra this election)”.

Vadra is Priyanka Gandhi’s husband, and Rahul’s brother-in-law. It is true that earlier this month, Vadra had told the media that people expect me to represent Amethi if I decide to contest elections. Vadra has hinted on more than one occasion that he would like to make his political debut, by saying that if contests from Amethi the voters will “have the option of correcting their mistake of having elected Smritiji”.

However, the same evening, the posters of Vadra had disappeared from the walls of Amethi, making Smriti Irani, the ruling party parliamentarian from Amethi say, “‘Jija ho ya saala, Amethi ka voter, Modi ka matwala’ (whether it is this brother-in-law or that, the voter in Amethi is only Modi’s fan)”.

Will She, Won’t She?

It is also not sure if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will contest from Rae Bareli, or not? Rae Bareli was recently vacated by Priyanka’s mother and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi who represented the constituency between 2004 and 2024.

An interesting story making the rounds in Lucknow goes that the ruling party is waiting for the Congress to declare its candidate in Rae Bareli before it announces its own.

According to the grapevine the ruling party is trying to convince Varun Gandhi to contest against his cousin sister Priyanka if she is declared the Congress contestant from Rae Bareli. Varun was denied a ticket by the ruling party to contest from Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency that he had nursed since 2004.

Varun has not responded to the speculations but is known to be close to Priyanka Gandhi. It is difficult to see him contest an election in Rae Bareli against his favourite cousin. However, on the slippery slope of politics there are always a few surprises!

Second Phase Of Voting Starts

The other contestants attracting attention in the second phase of voting on Friday, includes Hema Malini, trying for a third win from Mathura. The veteran Bollywood actress is expected to sail through a victory against the Congress contestant Mukesh Dhangar despite having spent little time in her constituency.

Only a few days ago she had told the media that she does not remember the work that she has done in her constituency in the last decade. Mathura is a ruling party stronghold and also home to the 17th century Shahi Idgah mosque.

The ruling party has fielded another television-film celebrity in Meerut. Actor Arun Govil is challenged by SP’s Sunita Verma and Devrat Tyagi is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contestant.

The BSP chief Mayawati is suspected by poll analysts of putting up contestants in recent elections who help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win over the Congress and SP candidates. However, in Meerut she has fielded a Tyagi, member of a community that is at the moment very angry with the BJP.

The two non-Muslim contestants of the BSP and the SP are expected to consolidate the vote of Muslims against the BJP contestant in Meerut. Govil had played Ram in the popular 1987 TV serial ‘Ramayan’.

Directed by Ramanand Sagar, ‘Ramayan’s’ dialogues were written by Hindi novelist and poet Rahi Masoom Raza. Govil has launched his political debut by campaigning in Meerut with posters of Ram.

He told the media that he has not had the time to study his constituency and is not aware of the issues dear to the voter. All the groundwork will come later.

It is time for him to concentrate on winning the elections first. In other words today Govil is totally at the mercy of the gods, as they say “Ram Bharosey!”