Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday said he would demand funds from the Election Commission for digital infrastructure to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

“The BJP has had a digital infrastructure for a long time, unlike other political parties,” Yadav said at a press conference in Lucknow. “We will request the Election Commission to strengthen the digital platforms of other parties so that they can come in a position to compete with BJP. In case there is a need for digital rallies, we need to ensure that other parties are also having good digital infrastructure.”

Yadav’s made the remark hours before the Election Commission announced the poll dates and mandated virtual campaigning.

At a press conference later on Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra advised political parties to conduct campaigns virtually and said no rallies or roadshows will be allowed till January 15. He said that the poll panel will review about rallies and roadshows based on the coronavirus situation.

The elections to 403-seat Uttar Pradesh Assembly will be held in seven phases on February 10, February 14, February 20, February 23, February 27, March 3 and March 7. The votes will be counted on March 10.

The Samajwadi Party has already announced an alliance with the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), which is headed by Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav, for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. In the past few months, Akhilesh Yadav has announced alliances with several other regional parties as well. These include the Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, the Jayant Singh Chaudhary-led Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Mahan Dal and the Janwadi Party (Socialist).

In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, the BJP had emerged victorious by winning 312 seats. The Samajwadi Party had won 47 seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party had won 19 seats in the 403-member Legislative Assembly.

Will file FIR against BJP IT cell member

Yadav said his party’s legal department will file a first information against a BJP IT cell member for allegedly posting his picture to claim that a perfumer raided by tax authorities in Kanpur was linked to the Samajwadi Party chief.

“This man has been spreading lies with the help of Centre and state governments,” Yadav alleged. “We are going to file an FIR against him and will ensure strict action once our government is formed.”

Kanpur businessman Piyush Jain who was arrested in December after tax officials seized around Rs 200 crore in cash from his home and factory was at the centre of a blame game between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party recently.

BJP leaders alleged that Jain has links to the Samajwadi Party chief. Yadav, on the other hand, claimed that call details of Jain’s phone would reveal that he was in contact with BJP leaders.

Yadav on Saturday added that the current Uttar Pradesh government was using its money to campaign for the BJP. “The government money should not be misused in advertisements against us,” he added. “We will ensure action against people behind this also.”