Even though the saffron outfit kept his candidacy secret, Baghel showed up to lodge his candidacy shortly after Akhilesh submitted his constituency papers going to the polls in the third phase of the UP elections. .
Significantly, this isn’t the first time Baghel will face Akhilesh. In the 2009 Lok sabha elections, Baghel, then with the BSP, contested against Akhilesh of Firozabad but lost by a margin of around 67,000 votes.
Born in Bhatpura village of neighboring Auraiyya district, Baghel hails from the Garedia (shephard) sub-caste within the Dalits. The sub-caste generally separates itself from the socio-economically powerful Yadav community, which wields considerable influence in the region.
His candidacy follows closely on the heels of the BSP which also fielded a Jatav, Kuldeep Narayan from the seat, in what marked the party leader Mayawati’s desperate bid to shore up his core Dalit voters who have been drifting towards the BJP since 2014. The Congress , at the same time, attempted to cut into Yadav’s vote bank by eliminating Gyanwati Yadav from the seat.
With a doctorate in military science, Baghel was the personal security officer of former CM and SP Patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in the mid-1990s. Baghel officially began his political career in 1998 by running as a candidate for the PS to the parliamentary seat of Jalesar, which he won by beating Ompal Singh Nidar of the BJP. He retained the seat in 1999 and again in 2004, the year Akhilesh won against Kannauj.
After moving to BSP and fighting against Akhilesh in 2009, Mayawati rewarded Baghel with a ticket to Rajya Sabha in July 2010. But just before his term ended in 2014, Baghel jumped ship and joined the BJP. He then contested from Firozabad, this time against Akshay Yadav, the son of SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, but lost by around 1.14 lakh of the vote.
Baghel’s perseverance brought him another chance in 2017 which he successfully grabbed by winning Tundla’s reserved seat in Firozabad on a BJP ticket. He was inducted into the government of Yogi Adityanath as Minister of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Minor Irrigation.
Two years later, in 2019, Baghel was promoted as the BJP candidate from the Agra reserved seat, replacing the party’s senior Dalit leader, Ram Shankar Katheria. Baghel beat SP-backed BSP candidate Manoj Kumar Soni by a margin of over 2.1 lakh votes. And on July 7, 2021, he was inducted into the Narendra Modi cabinet.