Though talk of the former 74-year-old UP CM contesting from Azamgarh was on for some time, the BJP’s decision to field PM candidate Modi from Varanasi sealed the move. There is a feeling in the party that Yadav’s presence in Azamgarh will boost the prospects of other candidates and may also check the BJP’s advances in the region, where it has a thin presence. BJP’s UP leaders and poll strategists wanted Modi to be fielded from Varanasi to not only makes gains in Poorvancahl but also in neighbouring Bihar, which along with UP accounts for 120 Lok Sabha seats. “Azamgarhi totka”, or the Azamgarh spell, has worked miracles for the SP in the past. With a considerable presence of the minority community (12%), Azamgarh is the hub of Muslims politics in the state. In choosing the constituency, Yadav, who often refers to home district Etawah as his dil (heart) and Azamgarh dhadkan (heartbeat), wants to emerge as the sole claimant of Muslim votes send a wider message to the community across the state.
The constituency also has a sizable presence, 40%, of backward classes. Together Yadavs and Muslims — the core constituency of the SP — make up around 32% of voters in Azamgarh. There were calls for Yadav’s younger son Prateek to be fielded from Azamgarh. If elected from both seats, Yadav will have to give up one. Prateek entering the fray at that juncture can’t be ruled out. In the past, Yadav has retained the seat where he polled more votes. Though the BJP’s Ramakant Yadav won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Azamgarh, in the 2012 assembly election, the SP won nine of the 10 seats. In fact, the SP did exceedingly well in entire Poorvanchal, winning 105 of the 172 seats. Terror links of some young men may have earned Azamgarh the tag of “terrorists’ nursery” but the SP launched its Lok Sabha campaign from the constituency in October last. Yadav will be pitted against Ramakant Yadav of the BJP, Arshad alias Guddu Jamali of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Arvind Jaiswal of the Congress.