After much deliberation the BJP chose the auspicious day of Holi to announce its much awaited first list of 184 candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. That there were no surprises in the list was the biggest surprise of all.
While it was widely known that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will again contest from Varanasi, the party was expected to change half of the sitting MPs, especially in the crucial state of UP. That did not happen as the BJP sent a message to the SP-BSP gathbandhan that they are unfazed by their caste arithmetic. The party decided to repeat most of the MPs in the state, at least in the 28 of the 80 seats that were announced by union health minister J.P. Nadda. Only four of the 28 sitting MPs were dropped.
Those who have been named in the list include senior leaders like General V.K. Singh from Ghaziabad, Mahesh Sharma from Gautam Buddha Nagar, Hema Malini from Mathura, Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, Raghav Lakhanpal from Saharanpur and even the controversial duo of Sanjeev Baliyan from Muzzafarnagar and Sakshi Maharaj from Unnao. The BJP has made it clear that it is confident about the big UP contest and chooses not to react to criticism that has been coming the way of some of its MPs for speaking out of turn.
The big takeaway from the list is announcement of BJP president Amit Shah to contest his first Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, a seat that has been represented by senior leader L.K. Advani for past five terms. He had won the seat for the first time in 1991, making way for his mentor late Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996. Considered a safe seat for the BJP, the party decided to field Amit Shah for his first parliamentary contest. Shah is a sitting MP in Rajya Sabha and earlier MLA from Gujarat.
By resting Advani, now 91 years-old, the BJP has also ended the speculation whether the older leaders would be given tickets or not. “It seems that the party may not give tickets to those above 75 as it had decided earlier,” says a senior party leader. The fate of another ‘margdarshak’ Murali Manohar Joshi is still to be decided as the BJP did not declare the candidate from his constituency Kanpur.
BJP spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam says that the party is thankful to Advani’s contribution. “If someone has to replace Advani ji, then who better than Amit Shah,” he asks.
Another message that the BJP has sent from the list is that it wants most of its senior leaders to come from Lok Sabha, after being elected by people, and not Rajya Sabha. This has been a topic of much debate within the party. Apart from Amit Shah, the party also named union minister K.J. Alphons as candidate from Ernakulum in Kerala. He too is a Rajya Sabha member at present. Smriti Irani too will take on Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. She had contested against him in 2014 but lost.
“We will have to wait for the other candidates to be declared to see if other senior leaders from Rajya Sabha are made to contest,” the party leader adds. This will include leaders like Arun Jaitley and Piyush Goyal.
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