New Delhi: On Thursday, the Bharatiya Janta Party ( BJP ) released its first list of 184 candidates for 20 States for the Lok Sabha election, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed to fight from his seat of Varanasi, and party president Amit Shah also giving hint to fight from Gandhinagar, replacing six times former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.
The party retained most sitting MPs, the biggest drop in Uttar Pradesh with six candidates replaced in a list of 28. In all 24 sitting MPs have been dropped.
Union Minister for Health J.P. Nadda released the list in the evening, but refused to comment on Mr. Advani being replaced by Mr. Shah in Gandhinagar.
However, sources from the party said that the decision on whether Mr. Advani would like to contest was left to him, as was the case with former Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi. This was discussed at the parliamentary board of the party two weeks ago.
As for Mr. Shah, senior leaders said the party needed a heavyweight replacement for Mr. Advani, and with Mr. Modi not contesting from Gujarat, Mr. Shah was the natural choice. It is also a sign of Mr. Shah’s undisputed pre-eminence in the BJP and its affairs both in Gujarat and nationally.
In the State of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP faces a formidable alliance of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the first list saw 28 names announced including that of Prime Minister Modi from Varanasi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani from Amethi. This is the second time when Smriti Irani would fight from Amethi against Congress president, Rahul Gandhi.
The candidature of former Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, an MP from Kanpur, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi who represents Pilibhit and her son Varun Gandhi representing Sultanpur was also not announced. Mr. Nadda said that all 17 candidates from Bihar had been finalised and the list sent to the State unit for endorsement. It will be announced at an NDA event.
The BJP announced 21 out of 28 candidates for Karnataka retaining 16 sitting MPs, and with new entrant A Manju from the Congress now getting a BJP ticket from Hassan to take on Prajwal Revanna, grandson of former prime minister Deve Gowda.
In Kerala, the party firmed up its alliance with the Bharth Jana Sena Party (BDJS) on Wednesday, giving it five seats, and the Kerala Congress (Thomas) with one seat. The list saw BJP announce 13 out of its 14 seats in the fray (the exception eing Pathanamthitta), with Union minister K J Alphons to fight from Ernakulam and former Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajashekharan to fight Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram.
West Bengal and Odisha
The BJP wants to make serious inroads into Odisha and West Bengal and announced 28 out of the 42 seats it will fight in the former and 10 out of 21 seats in Odisha. In Bengal, many cross overs from Trinamool Congress, the Congress and the CPI(M) have found a spot in the list including Arjun Singh who will take on former Union minister Dinesh Trivedi from Barackpore. The party did not announce any candidate for its sitting seat of Darjeeling as the views of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) weighs heavily in that.
The party is fielding two of its former MLA candidates, Pratap Sarangi and Brughu Baxipatra from Balasore and Berhampur respectively. Union minister Jual Oram, the party’ only MP to scrape through in 2014, will contest again. As will Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo, who lost he Bolangir seat to her brother in law Kalikesh Singh Deo (BJD’s candidate for 2019 again).
The party accommodated new entrant Sujay Vikhe Patil in the Ahmadnagar seat and replaced sitting MP from Latur, Sunil Gaikwadwith Sudhakar Bahlerao Shrungare. The party will fight 25 seats in the state and declared 16 seats from the state. Union minister Nitin Gadkari has been repeated from his old seat of Nagpur.
North Eastern States
Party chief Amit Shah made an unprecedented move of giving an explanation for the exclusion of Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from the list, when he was widely tipped to fight from Tezpur. Mr Shah said Mr Sarma was needed in his role as convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and the party’s growth in that area. The list from Assam saw three sitting MPs dropped, Bijoya Chakraborty in Gauhati replaced by Queen Ojha, Dilip Saikia replacing Ramen Deka in Mangaldoi and Tapan Gogoi replacing Kamakhya Prasad Tassa in Jorhat.