Neeraj Shekhar’s exit from SP likely triggered by denial of Ballia ticket in 2019 LS polls
Neeraj Shekhar’s resignation from membership of the Rajya Sabha and Samajwadi Party (SP) has come as no surprise to anyone in the party or political circles in Lucknow or Ballia.
Ballia is the Lok Sabha seat that his father the late Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar represented 10 times. Neeraj Shekhar had won the seat in a by-election in 2008 and retained it in 2009.
The seeds of Shekhar’s exit from the SP were sown during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when party gave the ticket for the Ballia seat to Sanatan Pandey, instead of Neeraj Shekhar. “Neeraj didn’t like denial of the ticket for the constituency that his father and he represented. The Ballia seat fell in the SP’s share as part of its poll pact with the BSP. Neeraj wanted to contest it again, though he had lost the seat to the BJP’s Bharat Singh in 2014. In 2019, Akhileshji wanted to win the seat back by fielding a mass leader and his candidate Sanatan Pandey lost the seat only by 15,000 votes (just about two 2% of the votes polled),” said an SP leader.
Neeraj Shekhar, 50, and Akhilesh Yadav, 46, were quite close for over a decade till 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The SP had fielded Neeraj Shekhar as its candidate on the seat for the bypolls in 2008 when the seat fell vacant due to Chandra Shekhar’s death in 2007.
Chandra Shekhar was the Samajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya) MP. Neeraj won the by-election and retained the seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls on the SP ticket. When Neeraj lost the seat in 2014, Akhilesh Yadav quickly sent him to Rajya Sabha.
Chandra Shekar won the Ballia seat in 1977 and 1980, and then six times in a row in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2004. Neeraj Shekhar’s exit from the SP comes amid speculation that he is likely to join the BJP.