The Samajwadi Party (SP) was forced to kickstart its 2012 poll campaign on Sunday without national president Mulayam Singh Yadav, who could not attend because of bad weather.
However, a rally took place in Azamgarh and a large number of party supporters braved the soggy weather and the cold to be present.
Yadav’s party colleague Azam Khan could not make it, either.
Former minister Balram Yadav, who organised the rally, said: “Despite the rain, the turnout at the rally showed things were turning favourable for the SP.”
The party may hold another rally in Azamgarh.
“We have been braving the rain and cold since morning,” said Shyamlal Yadav, who came with a group from Ballia. There were traffic jams on the roads leading to the rally ground, with trails of vehicles on all the highways in the district.
The rally was considered strategic from the SP point of view—to better its tally in the region, take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor and cushion voters, primarily the Muslims, against the influence of new parties that have come up.
Unlike 2007, regional Muslim outfits such as the Ulema Council and Peace Party have emerged and it is feared that they may cut into the SP’s Muslim vote bank. The rally was targeted at the three district of the Purvanchal region —Azamgarh, Mau and Ballia, which together have 22 assembly seats, of which 15 are with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Of these Azamgarh has 10 seats, of which the BSP won six seats and the SP four in the 2007 elections.
In 2002, the SP had five, the BSP four and the Congress one.
Muslim votes—nearly 17%— play decisive role in the area. The region goes to polls on February 11. Polls in the state will be held in seven phases from February 4 to February 28.