The sleepy town of Karhal in the “VIP” Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh is set to become the “most VIP” one with Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav deciding to contest from here for the February-March assembly polls.
“He does not even need to campaign. We are enough to make him win. If he has the time, he can come or we will manage,” a visibly excited Syed Imran Hashmi told News18 in the main Karhal market. At the nearby Jain Inter College, where the SP national president’s father and former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav studied for five years and also taught for almost two decades, the principal wishes that Akhilesh starts his nomination journey to the collectorate from here on January 31. “Ek tarfa mamla hai (it’s a one-sided contest), it will be a bumper win,” said SP leaders.
Karhal has an old connection with Mulayam Singh Yadav, the long-time MP of Mainpuri under which the assembly seat falls. Yudhvir Narayan Dube, the principal of Jain Inter College, cheerfully took News18 to a classroom where Mulayam taught political science. “He was admitted as a student here in 1955 in class 9, passed out in 1963, and returned in 1963 to serve as a teacher here till 1984. He resigned but never resigned from his mind and heart. He still asks how the college is functioning,” Dube said. He also showed the file with the entire service record of ‘Netaji’, as Mulayam is popularly known.
Sunny Yadav, district secretary of Samajwadi Party, says Akhilesh will win by over 1.5 lakh votes and “it will be a Guinness World Record”. Akhilesh’s candidature, Yadav believes, will “send a big message” on 100 seats in half-a-dozen adjoining districts like Firozabad, Farooqabad, Etah, Etawah, Kannauj, etc. The Samajwadi Party office is being spruced up ahead of the contest. “Karhal will also become ‘most VIP’ now. It was earlier VIP also as Netaji is the MP who brought lots of development here,” the manager of Jain Inter College, Dharnidhar Jain, said.
With a strong Yadav population, Karhal has for three decades been an SP fortress. Sunny Yadav explains how his family elder Dada Chaudhary Nath Singh was an MLA here and was the “political guru” of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Singh’s statue is installed at the centre of the town. “In 1967, Singh left the seat for Netaji from where he started his political journey. He was fond of wrestling and Singh spotted him at a dangal (bout) doing a charkha daanv (a spinning wheel move) and from there Netaji came into his fold,” Sunny Yadav said.
Karhal is just a 10-minute drive from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s native village, Saifai. Locals speak of unemployment, stray cattle destroying fields and say they want to bring the Samajwadi Party government back. “Muslims, Yadavs, and all communities will vote for Akhilesh. The BJP did nothing,” said local resident Manoj Yadav.
The BJP is yet to announce its candidate to take on Akhilesh from Karhal but local party leaders told News18 that he shouldn’t assume a runaway win. “We expect all our top leaders to come here and campaign for our candidate,” said one of them. “We will give a tough fight.”