The major political parties in Uttar Pradesh have started finalising their candidates for the upcoming seven-phase Assembly elections beginning in the second week of February.

While a high-level meeting of the BJP decided the candidates for 172 constituencies in the 403-seat Assembly, the BSP claimed that it has also chosen candidates for 300 seats. The Congress released the first list for 125 constituencies, where 50 tickets were given to women.

The SP, the principal opposition party, got a shot in the arm as yet another minister in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet, Dharam Singh Saini, joined the party on Thursday.

The BJP’s meeting was attended by Adityanath, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya along with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president JP Nadda, Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari reportedly attended the meeting virtually.

There are indications that Adityanath may contest from Ayodhya and Maurya from Sirathu constituencies. At present, Adityanath is a member of the state’s Legislative Council. The announcement of the candidates may take place in a day or two.

AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra released the first list at a press conference here on Thursday. She said though her party is not trying to create a vote bank of women voters, the party’s efforts to mobilise women has fetched results as leaders of BJP, BSP and the SP have started considering the issues of women during their campaign.

“We are mobilising women to stand up for themselves and ask what is rightfully theirs to participate in the political process with the energy, strength and capacity that they actually have,” she said.

Unnao rape victim’s mother Asha Singh is the party’s candidate from Unnao assembly seat. Anti-CAA activist Sadaf Jafar, Asha worker and activist Poonam Pandey, tribal leader Ram Raj Gond, PCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu, CLP leader Aradhna Misra Mona and senior leader Louise Khurshid have got tickets in the first list.

“Our list gives a new message - if there is injustice with you, then you have the power to fight for your rights. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party will provide that power to you and will support and help you in all ways so that you fight for yourself, come into politics and take power in your hands and then ask for your rights yourself,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said.

Meanwhile, Saini told reporters after a meeting with Akhilesh Yadav that he is a messiah of downtrodden people.

“He is a very good leader who has real concern for the people. He is the messiah of dalits and the backwards. We made a BJP government in 2017 and will make his government in 2022,” Saini said. Three ministers and five MLAs—mostly belonging to OBC groups—left the BJP this week.