Announcing Mulayam Singh’s candidature from Azamgarh, party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav said this was done on “popular demand”.
Party insiders, however, admitted that the rethink was forced by the candidature of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Varanasi.
Party strategists were worried that Modi contesting from Varanasi could have a cascading effect on neighbouring seats, and hence pitting Mulayam from Azamgarh, a predominantly Muslim-Yadav constituency, was the best bet to stave off any Modi effect, a party leader told IANS.
Another party leader said the Samajwadi Party would also like to woo the Other Backward Classes, which account for over 35 percent of votes in the region.
Mulayam Singh is re-contesting from Mainpuri, the family pocketborough in central Uttar Pradesh, which has twice sent him to the Lok Sabha.
The Samajwadi Party has 22 members in the current Lok Sabha while the BJP has 10 from the state. BJP national president Rajnath Singh is also contesting from Uttar Pradesh.