Mulayam Singh Yadav has a new opponent in the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seat – prominent Muslim cleric Maulana Aamir Rashadi, who says the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief's record is "worse" than BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in terms of communal violence.
"Modi damaged the Muslim community in Gujarat. But a bigger damage has been caused by Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh (UP) as 143 riots and arrests of innocent Muslim youths on false terror charges happened under his watch," said Rashadi, who announced his plans to contest the elections on a Rashtriya Ulama Council (RUC) ticket. He is the national president of RUC.
"I will contest the Lok Sabha elections from Azamgarh. I am sure people will teach the ruling SP a lesson for its failure to maintain law and order across the state," Rashadi told the media in Lucknow.
The BJP's sitting MP Ramakant Yadav is also in the fray in Azamgarh.
Rashadi said the RUC would field candidates from 54 seats across the country, including 23 in UP.
However, he said the RUC had not taken a decision on the Varanasi seat, from which Modi is contesting.
Modi is pitted against Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, who is contesting on a Quami Ekta Dal ticket.
The Rashtriya Ulama Council came into existence in October 2008, and was originally called the Ulama Council. It was formed as a protest group after two youngsters from Azamgarh were killed in the Batla House encounter in New Delhi on September 19, 2008.
The RUC contested five seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 100 seats in the 2012 UP assembly polls, but could not win a seat.