One of the tallest Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh today joined Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party in a big setback for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's party in India's most populous state, where elections will be held next month.
Former Congress MLA Imran Masood has said only Akhilesh Yadav's party can defeat the BJP, whose campaign is being led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
"All of my well-wishers have supported me in one voice and I am thankful. Friends, I met Akhilesh ji in Lucknow and told him I want to consult my family. I told him I want a government under his leadership because he is the only one equipped to defeat the BJP," Mr Masood, surrounded by a sea of supporters, told reporters today in Saharanpur.
"I am hopeful my family will be with me. I will take an appointment with Akhilesh ji and I am giving a clear line. We have to go to Lucknow to be inducted into the Samajwadi Party. Do you agree?" the former MLA said, to which the crowds shouted, "Yes."
"All of you are Imran Masood and we are deciding to support Akhilesh ji to get this government removed from UP," he said.
The BJP said people will answer this in the polls.
"The coming of Imran Masood to SP proves that one more name has been added to the chain of rioters. People are ready to answer this in the coming elections," said state BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh.
Mr Masood won the 2007 assembly election as an independent, contested the 2012 polls on a Congress ticket and lost and joined the Samajwadi Party in 2013. The next year, he was back in the Congress fold and contested the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Saharanpur. But he lost both elections.
Mr Masood, however, does have a sizeable group of supporters in his area, especially Muslims, who comprise 42 per cent of the population there.
He is the nephew of five-time Congress Lok Sabha MP from Saharanpur Rashid Masood, who died in 2020. Rashid Masood was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress four times.
“There is a direct fight between the BJP and SP in UP which will now have a government under Akhilesh Yadav to protect the youths, farmers, traders and women. The present BJP government in the state is an enemy of the Hindu-Muslim unity,” Mr Masood had told reporyers.
UP will vote in seven phases starting February 10; counting is on March 10.