New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ninth list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections released Monday distinctly reflects the party’s two primary objectives — a generational shift that puts fresh faces at the forefront and an attempt to show how the ‘family card’ won’t work.
Highly placed sources in the party said the idea is not just to replace or deny tickets to “a few from the old guard who anyway were expected to be placed aside” but “extend this to a wider range of leaders”.
The BJP is also attempting to display that “the party is reposing faith is young faces” by fielding “unexpectedly fresh” names. The point is also to highlight the message “there is no preference to family unlike other parties”, said the sources.
The latest list of candidates is symbolic of BJP’s efforts to ease out the older guard beyond the obvious names. Veterans like L.K. Advani, Kalraj Mishra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari and B.C. Khanduri will not fight the upcoming elections, while a question mark persists over the fate of Murli Manohar Joshi.
The party has now announced candidates for 313 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats.
In the new list of just four names across three states — Assam, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh — what stands out is the denial of tickets to four-time MP from Nagaon in Assam and minister of state at the Centre, Rajen Gohain, as well as former union minister Ananth Kumar’s widow Tejaswini Ananth Kumar from the Bengaluru South seat.
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In both cases, the choice of candidates has surprised many.
Instead of the 68-year old veteran in Assam — who has represented the constituency since 1999 — the party has fielded relatively lesser known and much younger Rupak Sharma, an MLA from the Nagaon Sadar assembly seat.
Meanwhile, Kumar’s widow was denied the ticket from Bengaluru South, a seat Kumar represented till he died last year. He was a multiple-term MP from the seat.
Instead, the party has unexpectedly fielded 28-year-old youth leader Tejasvi Surya.
Tejaswini had already begun her campaign unofficially.
“OMG OMG!!! I can’t believe this. PM of world’s largest democracy & President of largest political party have reposed faith in a 28 yr old guy to represent them in a constituency as prestigious as B’lore South. This can happen only in my BJP. Only in #NewIndia of @narendramodi,” an evidently thrilled Surya tweeted after being named.
OMG OMG!!! I can't believe this.
PM of world's largest democracy & President of largest political party have reposed faith in a 28 yr old guy to represent them in a constituency as prestigious as B'lore South. This can happen only in my BJP. Only in #NewIndia of @narendramodi
— Chowkidar Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) March 25, 2019
Generational shift, no family points
Party sources said even this small list of four candidates shows the party’s clear strategy.
“It was expected that obvious names like Advani ji and Kalraj Mishra won’t fight these polls. That they would be placed aside was in a way known,” said a highly placed source in the party who did not wish to be identified.
“But the party’s strategy is to make this more widespread, and extend this to a wider bracket. For instance, denial of ticket to multiple-term MP Gohain is a deeper message and goes beyond the obvious,” said the source.
“Even through a small list like the last one, the party leadership has clearly shown we are reposing faith in young, and even unexpectedly fresh names. Idea is to show the party has a youth brigade and not just the known faces,” added the source.
In Chhattisgarh, for instance, where the party was routed in the December assembly polls and where it has axed most of its sitting MPs, six-time Raipur MP Ramesh Bais has been replaced by the relatively lesser known Sunil Soni.
Moreover, former chief minister Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh has also been denied a ticket from Rajnandgaon.
“That here is no preference to family unlike other parties is an important message. Ananth Kumar’s wife being denied a ticket is precisely to send out that message loud and clear,” said another BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
“Even Raman Singh’s son was not given one, because it was felt there was anti-incumbency against him. Nobody should get a preference only because of the family they belong to is what the party is highlighting. The family card does not work,” said the leader.
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