The BJP’s second lot of candidates for the February-March assembly polls prominently features fresh inductees from other parties, mainly in Uttarakhand, and relatives of these turncoats as well as of long-time BJP leaders.
After a CEC meeting attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah Monday, the party released the names of 149 candidates for Uttar Pradesh, seven more for Goa, 64 for Uttarakhand and completed its list for Punjab. “We have given tickets to candidates from all sections of the society and from all walks of life,” said Union minister J P Nadda, who released the list.
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The nomination of so many turncoats and relatives comes despite several statements against such a trend by top leaders including Modi. It could trigger disappointment among workers, said a party leader.
In the Uttarakhand list of 64 candidates — out of 70 —all the Congress rebels who joined the BJP in the last year or two have been rewarded, either with tickets themselves or with the nomination of close relatives. Nadda said all the sitting MLAs of the party, besides those who joined it from the Congress, have been given tickets. Leader of last year’s Congress rebellion Vijay Bahuguna, a former chief minister, was rewarded with a ticket to his son, Saurabh, from Sitarganj. Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, daughter of former chief minister B C Khanduri, got the Yamkeshwar ticket.
The BJP even accommodated three leaders who had crossed over only Monday morning. Uttarakhand minister Yashpal Arya, who was considered close to CM Harish Rawat, sprang a surprise by quitting the Congress to join the BJP with his son Sanjeev and another Congress leader, Kedar Singh Rawat. All of them were given tickets within hours — in Bajpur, Nainital and Yamunotri respectively. Yashpal Arya was the Dalit face of the Congress in the state. His son is making his poll debut, as are Ritu Khanduri Bhushan and Saurabh Bahuguna.
Former MP Satpal Maharaj, the first Congress leader to join the BJP in March 2014, has been given the ticket to Chaubattakhal. The BJP has also moved some of the Congress rebels to other seats. Former Congress minister Harak Singh Rawat was transferred from Rudraprayag to Kotdwar. Controversial BJP MLA from Mussoorie Ganesh Joshi, who had hit the horse Shaktiman leading to its death, was given the ticket from the same seat. Former state BJP president Teerath Singh Rawat and Vijay Brathwal were denied tickets.
Punjab & Goa
The party dropped two ministers, Madan Mohan Mittal and Chuni Lal Bhagat, in Punjab while naming the last six candidates from that state. The party also denied tickets to two sitting legislators in Goa – Ramesh Tawadkar (Canacona constituency) and Anant Shet (Mayem).
Prominent in the UP list are BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma, former state unit chief Laxmikant Bajpai, and controversial MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana. The BJP has fielded the grandson of former CM and governor Kalyan Singh, Sandeep Singh, from Atrauli. Former Congress leaders Ramesh Tomar, Congress candidate from Gautam Buddh Nagar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls who moved to the BJP just 10 days before polling, and Dhirender Singh, who quit Congress and joined the BJP this month, have been fielded from Dholana and Jewar respectively.
The fielding of turncoats have upset some leaders. “The leadership should stick to what they have been saying. You cannot ignore those who worked for the party for years. The party is changing. The leaders say something and act differently,” said one woman leader from Uttar Pradesh who did not want to be identified as she is one of the aspirants.