New Delhi: Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is all set to file his nomination from the Azamgarh constituency today, which is at present held by his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The reins of power in Azamgarh have shuffled between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party since 1996. Mulayam Singh Yadav won from Azamgarh in 2014, amid a strong ‘Modi wave’ by over 63,000 votes against the BJP’s Ramakant Yadav. He also won the Mainpuri seat in 2014 by a margin of about 3.5 lakh votes but later resigned from it to retain Azamgarh.

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But the battle of Azamgarh assumes significance due to BJP fielding Bhojpuri star Dinesh Lal Yadav popularly known as “Nirahua” against Akhilesh Yadav. In his maiden contest, Nirahua will be up against a political heavyweight.

The Bharatiya Janata Party on April 3 announced “Nirahua”, who had joined the saffron party on March 27, would be its candidate against the Samajwadi Party chief. Who will win this constituency, which has large number of Yadav, Muslim and Dalit voters, would be known only on May 23 but Nirahua’s candidature has made the elections interesting.

The Samajwadi Party is in alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections.

Akhilesh Yadav, who is neither a member of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha and not even a member of the Uttar Pradesh assembly or legislative council, has been earlier contesting and winning the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat.

In 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP had swept the state but had failed to make any mark at all in Azamgarh. The SP had managed to secure three assembly seats while the BSP had cornered the remaining two.

On Thursday, Akhilesh Yadav urged people to vote and help upholding the tenets of democracy. “Use your franchise in the second phase of voting. In democracy, voting not only determines the direction for next five years but for decades. For a strong democracy one must vote,” he tweeted in Hindi.

Voting in eight Lok Sabha seats — Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras, Fatehpur Sikri, Nagina, Amroha, Mathura, Agra– are underway in Uttar Pradesh. The seven-phase Lok Sabha battle will culminate with the counting of votes on May 23.