UP Polls Ground Report: Big Debate in Kalyan Singh's Turf—Why Didn't Akhilesh Come to Pay Last Respects?

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Why did Akhilesh Yadav not turn up to pay his last respects to the late Kalyan Singh after he passed away in 2021? In the backyard of Babuji—as the deceased chief minister was popularly known—in Aligarh’s Atrauli area, this is an issue of debate for the February-March Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

“I do not know if there were any political reasons, the elections were also upon us…I can’t say (why Akhilesh did not come),” Kalyan Singh’s grandson and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Atrauli candidate Sandeep Singh told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. Senior BJP leaders and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati came to pay their last respects to Kalyan Singh. The BJP had termed Akhilesh not showing up a discourtesy to the other backward class (OBC) Lodh community.

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“Akhilesh or anyone from his family…there must be some reason in his mind to not come. This thing should not have been there as it is above politics. Mulayam Singh Yadav was associated with Kalyan Singh for a long time. Akhilesh was an ex-chief minister. He should have come out of courtesy when another ex-CM of the same state passed away,” Singh said.

Political legacy

It was a unique coincidence in Muslim-dominated Samaspur village in Atrauli on Wednesday as the main contestants, UP minister Sandeep Singh and Viresh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, landed at the same time for election campaigning. Yadav won the seat in 2012 to everyone’s surprise and does not fail to reminisce that his father defeated Kalyan Singh from the same constituency in 1962. “So this is a traditional seat for both the families,” Viresh said. But Kalyan Singh had a long unchallenged run from here and Sandeep became a legislator from Atrauli in 2017 for the first time, the youngest MLA then.

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ALSO READ | Kalyan Singh (1932-2021): Life & Times of BJP’s First ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ Who Blended Mandal, Mandir

UP Polls Ground Report: Big Debate in Kalyan Singh’s Turf—Why Didn't Akhilesh Come to Pay Last Respects?
© Provided by News18 Kalyan Singh had a long unchallenged run from Atrauli and Sandeep Singh became a legislator from here in 2017 for the first time, the youngest MLA then. Pic/News18

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With the Narendra Modi government giving a Padma Vibhushan to Kalyan Singh posthumously on Tuesday for which Sandeep profusely thanks the Prime Minister and the President, the issue of the BJP respecting their leader and SP disrespecting him has gained more currency. “This is an issue of bigger leaders (Akhilesh Yadav not going to pay last respects to Kalyan Singh). But Akhilesh was the first to tweet his last respects and condolences. He could not go physically but all our leaders participated in the mourning. We all respect Kalyan Singh and he was a very big leader,” Viresh Yadav told CNN-News18.

Some local Muslims asked why Kalyan Singh was given a Padma Vibhushan after his role was questioned as chief minister during the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. “Some people have a job to protest over everything, we do not want to comment on them,” Sandeep’s father and Etah MP Rajvir Singh told CNN-News18.

‘Battle for Hindutva’, and ’80 vs 20′

Sandeep says Kalyan Singh “fought the battle for Hindutva” but never did any discriminatory politics. Viresh Yadav in turn condemns the “80 vs 20” comment made by chief minister Yogi Adityanath. “The intention with which the CM gave that slogan was condemnable. We are fighting an 80-20 fight but the 80% we are fighting for are the Dalits, poor, backwards, and Muslims. They have only 20% who are BJP people, whichever way you see it. We are also fighting an 80-20 fight but we have 80% poor population support,” Yadav said.

Locals in Atrauli say Sandeep is young and not very connected with the people on the ground but may still win given his family legacy. “He hardly touches anyone’s feet. Viresh Yadav is a much more popular leader who is very humble,” residents of Samaspur said. Posters of BJP leaders put up in this Muslim-dominated village stood defaced. But Sandeep visited houses of a few Muslim residents to a warm welcome. Without Kalyan Singh’s shadow, Sandeep seems in for a tough fight.

“Babuji (Kalyan Singh) may not be with us today, but every person of this region considers him Babuji. Our Atrauli constituency is now known in the country with his name. So whenever I go to my area, I never feel that he is no longer there. This is the first election we are going to fight when Babuji is no longer with us. But his love and affection are with us along with the path he has shown us — my family and I have always been dedicated to our region. We will continue to serve our region,” Sandeep Singh told CNN-News18.

While Yadav attacks the BJP for bringing little development to the region, Sandeep cites Rs 2,000-crore worth of projects brought to Atrauli in the last five years. “When I fought the election in 2017, the roads were in bad shape. We did the maximum work on roads and there is no village which does not have electricity. We have taken the area forward. The government got only three years to work as for two years the focus went to Covid and we wanted everyone to get a vaccine and medicines,” Sandeep Singh added in the interview.

Viresh Yadav says the SP is fighting the elections both on the plank of development but also for respect. The jury is out in Atrauli.

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