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To achieve ‘Mission 73’ in Uttar Pradesh, BJP to field Yogi’s ministers in Lok Sabha polls

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The BJP and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of the state’s 80 seats in 2014, and is willing to change about 20 candidates in order to retain that number in 2019.

New Delhi: Eight months before the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has started elaborate planning to try and repeat its unprecedented 2014 performance in Uttar Pradesh. Based on an internal report, the party is willing to change its candidates on about 20 seats.

The BJP and its ally, Apna Dal, had won 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the Samajwadi Party to five, the Congress to two, and the Bahujan Samaj Party to zero. This played a huge part in Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister with a clear majority in 2014.

Last month, BJP general secretary in-charge of organisation Ram Lal, addressing party workers of the Avadh region in Lucknow, said they needed to work hard to match the performance, which party chief Amit Shah has termed ‘Mission 73’.

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Sources in the UP BJP told ThePrint that the plan was to field some ministers from Yogi Adityanath’s state government as Lok Sabha candidates. This, they said, would neutralise the impact of anti-incumbency. The fact that the new candidates would be familiar faces would also help.

“Some ministers have shown interest; we also have plans for some others,” said a UP BJP office bearer who did not wish to be identified. “However, the final decision will be taken by our national president Amit Shah.”

Ministers in the fray

State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh is one of those who has expressed interest in contesting from either Allahabad or Phulpur Lok Sabha seat. Singh, grandson of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri (who represented Allahabad twice in Parliament), is the MLA from Allahabad West, which falls under the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat. In 2014, Keshav Prasad Maurya had won Phulpur for the BJP; he later vacated the seat to become deputy chief minister in 2017, and the BJP lost the seat in the by-election earlier this year.

Stamp and civil aviation minister Nand Gopal Nandi also wants to contest from Allahabad; he had contested in 2014 on a Congress ticket and lost. He switched to the BJP ahead of the 2017 assembly polls and won from Allahabad South.

Seven-time MLA and industrial development minister Satish Mahana is in the reckoning for the Kanpur Lok Sabha seat. Mahana had contested from Kanpur in 2009, but lost to the Congress’s Sriprakash Jaiswal. Mahana won the Kanpur Cantt assembly seat five successive times between 1991 and 2012. In 2012, he switched to Maharajpur, and has won it twice.

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Shrikant Sharma, energy minister and MLA from Mathura, is eyeing the Mathura Lok Sabha seat currently held by actor-turned-politician Hema Malini. State BJP leaders feel that the public perception is against Hema Malini and she could be replaced. Sharma had also tried for the Lok Sabha ticket in 2014.

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