New Delhi: With just 20 days to go for the Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday declared its first list of candidates for 184 seats, retaining most of its sitting MPs, even as party president Amit Shah makes his national electoral debut from Gandhinagar, replacing veteran leader L.K. Advani.
As per the list declared Thursday evening, which according to sources in the party was timed based on “auspicious” considerations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fight from his current seat – Varanasi. With the party expected to fight to around 430 seats, it has now announced the names of a little over 40 per cent of its candidates.
The states included in the list are Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
Among the key states, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi have not been included. The Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases and the list keeps into account which state polls when, with emphasis on those that begin early.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the party did exceedingly well in the 2014 polls by winning 71 of the 80 seats, names for 28 seats were announced, with the party replacing only six of its sitting MPs among these. Notably, Union Minister Smriti Irani, who put a spirited fight against Congress president Rahul Gandhi in 2014 and has been nurturing the constituency since, will contest from the seat again. Among the key constituencies, the candidates for seats of Murli Manohar Joshi’s Kanpur and Maneka Gandhi’s Pilibhit are yet to be announced.
Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari will fight from their current seats – Lucknow and Nagpur respectively – while MoS V.K. Singh will again contest from Ghaziabad again. MoS (Independent charge) K.J. Alphons, currently a Rajya Sabha MP, has been fielded from Ernakulam in his home state of Kerala.
As announced by the party earlier, in Chhattisgarh – where the party was routed in the recent assembly polls – in the five seats declared, all sitting MPs have been replaced. In PM Modi’s home turf, Gujarat, only one seat has been included – Gandhinagar from where Shah, currently a Rajya Sabha MP, is fighting.
In Rajasthan, of the 25 seats, 16 have been declared and only one sitting MP – Santosh Ahalawat from Jhunjhunu – has been replaced so far. In 2014, BJP had won all 25 seats in the states, but it lost the state to the Congress in the December assembly polls, besides losing crucial bypolls at the beginning of last year.
All five seats from Uttarakhand have been announced, with two senior leaders – Bhagat Singh Khushiari and B.C. Khanduri – hanging up their political boots. Most notably, the party has fielded Tirath Singh Rawat from Garwhal where among the contenders was Shaurya Doval, the son of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
“Wherever the party expects a tough fight but is relatively confident of doing well like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, it has retained its candidates. However, states where it is under confident like Chhattisgarh, it has chosen to do mass replacements,” said a highly placed source in the party who did not wish to be identified.
The rebel factor
Important defectors from other parties have been adequately accommodated.
Jay Panda, former Biju Janata Dal leader who recently joined the BJP, has been given a ticket from Kendrapara. Sujay Vikhe Patil, who left the Congress this month to join the BJP, has been nominated from Ahmednagar, which was his condition.
The party’s list comes after days of deliberations and when. its rival, the Congress, has already come up with around six lists.