New Delhi:

A senior Congress leader in western Uttar Pradesh is apparently changing camp, with less than a month to go for the state elections. There has been speculation for weeks now that Imran Masood — one of the tallest leaders of the party in the area — will be joining the Samajwadi Party.

Asked about the buzz, Mr Masood  admitted that he has called a virtual meeting of his supporters tomorrow. But he said the way forward can only be decided only after a discussion with them.

But he also pointedly added that the “main contest in Uttar Pradesh is between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP”.

Mr Masood won the 2007 assembly elections as an Independent, contested the 2012 polls on 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 from the Muslim community who comprise a 42 per cent of the population.

In 2014, Mr Masood was arrested and jailed for an alleged hate speech made during an election campaign where he purportedly threatened to “chop Narendra Modi to pieces”. He later told NDTV that he had never threatened to kill Mr Modi. “I meant that I would teach him a lesson,” he said.

Imran Masood 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.

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