Within months of vacating the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat and retaining Kannauj — having won both — in 2009, Samajwadi Party (SP) state president Akhilesh Yadav faced a backlash.
Firozabad punished Akhilesh for the slight in the by-election, ensuring his wife Dimple Yadav lost by more than 85,000 votes to actor and Congress candidate Raj Babbar, who was once in the SP.
But voters in this Yadav-dominated district in western UP comprising five assembly segments now claim they are willing to let bygones be bygones. For many, Babbar’s “guest appearance” in his constituency is the reason for the change of heart.
“Raj Babbar does not come to the constituency, let alone do any development work,” said Santosh Upadhyaya of Srinagar village under the Tundla assembly segment.
Chemist Sanjay Gupta seconded the view. “People had not voted for the Congress, but for the film star to teach the SP a lesson.”
Rakesh Yadav of Jasrana assembly constituency said, “Our honeymoon with Raj Babbar is over and we have also pardoned the SP.”
Babbar, however, has the confidence of Arvind Paliwal, the Congress candidate from Shikohabad assembly segment. Paliwal said the “guest appearance” perception was not justified. “He is certainly working for the constituency.”
But emboldened by the feeling of having been forgiven, the SP is exuding confidence in all the seats barring Firozabad, where the Bharatiya Janata Party is mounting a strong challenge.
The district had four assembly seats in 2007 and got Sirsaganj after delimitation. Facing a strong anti-incumbency wave, the SP had failed to open its account in the district in the last assembly polls.The BSP had bagged Tundla and Firozabad, while Jasrana and Shikohabad had gone to independents.