Akhilesh defends fielding ‘strong’ candidate Atiq

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday justified fielding mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed from Sultanpur as a Samajwadi Party candidate, saying his party "will defend anyone who appears strong enough to contest at ground level" — "the factor most crucial for the Lok Sabha elections next year," he said.

"In the upcoming general elections, the real contest will be on the ground. Anyone who appears strong to contest at ground level, SP will defend him," Akhilesh said in response to questions over fielding Ahmed, and chose to criticise "some people who always raise fingers on our every action, whether good or bad."

The CM, however, maintained that Ahmed "may be a bahubali, he is not above law". The candidate from Sultanpur had, on Sunday, taken out a procession in which his supporters, in a show of strength, were reportedly seen flaunting firearms.

Akhilesh said "the matter will be looked into". "The party will maintain discipline."

The state government has been criticised for failing to provide the riot victims with appropriate relief help, which, in the CM's view, were "timely" and ranged from "medical relief to woolen clothes to cash relief", with the latter given "to those who do not want to return to their villages".

"A committee, too, has been set up to probe into the deaths of children in the relief camps," he said, adding that "while most have left the camps, a few of them have returned".

Also, the work done by the officials in implementing the development agenda of the state government earned appreciation from the chief minister who said that while that is being taken care of, his party's job "will be to defeat communal forces".

The state government's 203-point agenda, covering various schemes from different departments, was released on August 17. On Monday, the Public Works Department, Power, Medical Education and Industrial Development gave details of the achievement works undertaken by them.

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