New Delhi: The Samajwadi Party (SP) on Monday afternoon pulled out its candidate Shalini Yadav from the high-profile Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency and fielded dismissed Border Security Force (BSF) constable, Tej Bahadur Yadav, who had filed his nomination papers on April 25 as an independent candidate. Yadav will take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress' Ajay Rai.
Yadav, a BSF constable, was dismissed from service after he had released a video last year on the ‘poor’ quality of food served to soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision was hailed by Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, who congratulated SP leader Akhilesh Yadav for the decision, and saluted Tej Bahadur for taking on Modi.
SP spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi told Newsclick, "Every party has a right to decide its strategy till the last moment. We have fine-tuned our strategy in Varanasi. We will put a strong fight against PM Modi.
Modi is in the fray for the second consecutive term from the temple town and after his massive roadshow, it is widely expected that he will easily win. Now, after SP has fielded the soldier, the battle for Varanasi turned interesting.
The Prime Minister is contesting from the temple town for the second time and is widely expected to win an easy victory. The Congress, which was said to have considered fielding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, handed PM Modi a walkover by naming Ajay Rai, who finished third in Varanasi in 2014.
Reacting to SP’s withdrawal of its candidate, Tej Bahadur Yadav told Newsclick, "People of Varanasi are supporting me and coined a slogan from 'nakli chowkidar vs asli chowkidar' (The real watchman versus the fake one). I thanked former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for believing in me and supporting me for a genuine cause. When I came to Varanasi the main obstacle for me was that the Election Commission was not letting me to put my banners, hoardings in the city and asked me to take permission five days prior to putting these up. On the other side, there is no such rule for the saffron party."
When asked about the reason to choose Varanasi seat Yadav said: "When Modi can come from Gujarat to Varanasi to contest elections, why can’t I contest from here from neighboring Haryana. Varanasi is a pious city, that's why I am contesting.”
He further added that “BJP's politics since 2014 is based on the Indian forces. They came to power taking martyred soldier Hemraj's name and had promised if Pakistan does not return the head of the martyred soldier, Hemraj, India should get at least 10 heads from the other side. Now they are seeking votes in the name of the surgical strike and air strike,” accusing the Modi government of defaming the Indian forces and lowering their morale. “That's why I am here, and this is my agenda for the election. Not a single political party in history has politicised the Army. The BJP has stooped so low,” he added.
The sacked BSF jawan said he did not bother about who he was contesting against and was ready to face every obstacle, alleging that he was receiving threats and was even offered money by the ruling BJP.