Samajwadi Party's state convention from Thursday

Gorakhpur: The three-day state convention of Samajwadi Party will begin in Gorakhpur from Thursday as the party struggles to regain its lost ground in Uttar Pradesh after the episodes involving expulsion of Amar Singh and Azam Khan.

The party has given a prominent place to Azam Khan and jailed MLA Amarmani Tripathi, who has been convicted in poetess Madhumita murder case, in the banners and posters that dot the city for the convention to be held at the newly christened Janeshwar Mishra Nagar near Champa Devi Park in Ramgarh Taal area.

Azam Khan, who was once the Muslim face of the party but fell out with the leadership over Mulayam Singh Yadav's joining hands with former chief minister Kalyan Singh and the SP chief's close association with Amar Singh, returned to the party fold in December.

Khan's bete-noir Amar Singh was expelled from the party in February last year for indulging in anti-party activities and has launched an anti-Mulayam tirade since then.

Political observers say that the party's decision to hold the convention in this part of UP is due to several reasons including to woo Muslims and certain Hindu castes like Rajputs and Brahmins to counter of campaigns of Amar Singh and local BJP MP Yogi Aditya Nath.

Political observer Gunjeswari Prasad says the party traditionally has had a strong foothold in 27 districts of eastern UP. More than 110 assembly constituencies fall in these districts.

"This chunk is now divided between BJP, BSP and local parties like newly born peace party of Ayub Khan. Amar Singh has already completed two phases of his Purvanchal Swabhiman Yatra," says Prasad.

SP leaders said the three-day convention will focus on issues of price rise, corruption and law and order situation.