Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Who is Athar Jamal Lari, the BSP candidate fielded against PM Modi in Varanasi?

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The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded Athar Jamal Lari against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi parliamentary constituency, which goes to polls in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections on June 1. PM Modi has won the seat twice in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Mayawati-led political party released a list of candidates for 11 parliamentary constituencies, including Varanasi, on Tuesday, April 16. Varanasi is the stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the Lok Sabha elections 2024.

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The Congress has fielded its Uttar Pradesh unit chief, Ajay Rai, from Varanasi. Rai finished third in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.  Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had finished second in the Varanasi seat in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Local turncoat

Who is Athar Jamal Lari? Lari, 66, is a local from Varanasi who has been active in politics since 1980. Lari has had stints with several political parties, including Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, Apna Dal and Quami Ekta Dal – which was once headed by gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari. Mukhtar died in Banda on March 28 this year.

Lari has contested elections before, having unsuccessfully run in assembly elections thrice and Lok Sabha elections twice.

This will not be his first attempt from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. He  contested the Lok Sabha elections from the seat in UP for the first time in 1984 on a Janata Party ticket. Shyamlal Yadav of the Congress party won the seat. Lari bagged 50,329 votes. 

Lari tried his luck again in Varanasi in 2004 Lok Sabha elections, this time as a candidate from Sonelal Patel’s Apna Dal. Rajesh Kumar Mishra of the Congress party won the seat. Lari finished third with 93,228 votes.

Also Read: Lok Sabha polls 2024: Who is Congress Varanasi candidate Ajay Rai, contesting against PM Modi

In addition, Lari contested Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections from Varanasi Cantt seat on Janata Dal ticket in 1991 and 1993.  He also contested the UP-Assembly elections from Varanasi South seat in 2012 as a candidate from Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal. Lari finished third in the contest.

Muslim face 

In 2022, Lari joined Samajwadi Party just before the UP Assembly elections. 

Speaking to reporters in Varanasi, Lar said, “The fight will be between BSP and BJP. Ajay Rai will be a distant third.” He urged the Samjawadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav to extend support to him.

Also Read: Lok Sabha elections 2024: Transgender Mahamandaleshwar Hemangi Sakhi from ABHM to contest against PM Modi from Varanasi

Many say BSP has fielded Lari from Varanasi expecting a support from Muslim community. The seat has over three lakh voters from the community. In fact, Mayawati had fielded Mukhtar Ansari against BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi in 2009 with the same expectation. Joshi won the seat, but Ansari finished second, bagging 1.85 lakh votes.

With Prime Minister Modi in fray, the contest for Varanasi seat becomes symbolic. Among other candidates, transgender Mahamandaleshwar Hemangi Sakhi is also a candidate in the high-profile seat in Uttar Pradesh.

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Published: 16 Apr 2024, 11:37 AM IST

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