Election 2019: Sacked Soldier Tej Bahadur Yadav Named Samajwadi's Varanasi Candidate
Tej Bahadur Yadav, the former Border Security Force (BSF) soldier dismissed over his videos criticizing food for the forces on the frontlines, has been named the Samajwadi Party's candidate in Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The opposition "gathbandhan" or alliance of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party had earlier named Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker, as the grand alliance candidate from Varanasi. She, too, filed her nomination today.
"If Tej Pratap's nomination is canceled because he is a dismissed soldier, Shalini Yadav will be the back-up candidate," a Samajwadi Party leader told reporters.
Tej Bahadur Yadav had, a few weeks ago, said he wanted to take on PM Modi in Varanasi. He had even filed his papers as an independent candidate. His entry is seen by many as interesting at a time the PM has been accused of making frequent references in his campaign speeches to the Pulwama attack and India's retaliation in Balakot to demonstrate the government's tough stand against terror.
The Prime Minister is contesting from the temple town for the second time and is widely expected to win an easy victory. The Congress, which was said to have considered fielding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, handed PM Modi a walkover by naming Ajay Rai, who finished third in Varanasi in 2014.
Sources say after the Congress decided against pitching its top leader against PM Modi, the Samajwadi Party decided to up the ante and go for a more high profile candidate for the prestigious seat.
Arvind Kejriwal, in a tweet "congratulating" Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for his decision, posted: "On one hand is a soldier who risked his life for the country and lost his job while fighting for the rights of troops. On the other hand, is someone who seeks votes on the bodies of soldiers."
Tej Bahadur Yadav was sacked in 2017 after he posted a video on YouTube complaining about food served to the troops -- "watery dal and burnt chapatis" - in a long rant in military uniform.
The BSF set up a court of inquiry against Tej Pratap Yadav and the home ministry ordered an investigation. His videos grabbed so much attention that even the Prime Minister's Office asked for a report.
Yadav was shifted out of the Line of Control as the controversy escalated and later dismissed on charges of making false claims. Nearly a year later, the BSF commissioned an assessment of the meals served to jawans and officers of the paramilitary force.