Unlike in Bihar, where the BJP has given Lok Sabha tickets to a number of heavyweights inducted from other parties, Amit Shah has kept such leaders waiting for the tickets they are hoping for in Uttar Pradesh.
Prominent among these are MPs Jagdambika Pal, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Vijay Bahadur Singh (inducted from the Congress, SP and BSP), former SP MPs Kirti Vardhan Singh and Shyama Charan Gupta, and former BSP minister Nand Gopal Gupta Nandi.
Their desperation is showing. Jagdambika Pal called on Rajnath Singh in the capital to present his case. The BJP president gave him no assurance; the rebel Congress MP is learnt to have been advised to approach the state unit first before he could even be considered at the central level. Other leaders whom The Indian Express spoke to, too, admitted they were pitching for a ticket.
BJP sources indicated that the second list of candidates for UP could include some of these party-switchers. The fact that the party has not announced candidates for Domariyaganj (represented by Jagdambika Pal), Kaiserganj (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh), Gonda (Kirti Vardhan Singh), Allahabad (from where Nandi has been an MLA) and Banda (once represented by Shyama Charan Gupta) are keeping their hopes afloat.
BJP sources indicated that their accommodation would depend on fresh feedback from local party workers. Party leaders say Nandi and Shyama Charan are both eyeing Allahabad, which party veteran Keshrinath Tripathi too has claimed. The very fact that both leaders hail from the Baniya community leaves the BJP with the challenge of accommodating them at least in nearby regions. “Shyama Charan stands a better chance than Nandi of getting Allahabad or a nearby seat such as Banda,” confides a leader involved in selection.
Brij Bhushan, who is seeking a ticket for his son, and Kirti Vardhan hail from adjoining constituencies, and the BJP would rather not field two Thakur leaders so close to each other. “Brij Bhushan appears to have the better chance,” confided a leader.
What leaders say they will not do is “offer tickets blindfolded” to every leader of significance who has joined. They highlight the examples of Chandra Shekhar’s son Pankaj (who was eyeing Salempur), former BSP minister Phagu Chauhan (Ghosi), Bal Kishan Chauhan (again Ghosi) and Ramrati Bind (Bhadohi). The BJP has denied them these tickets.
The first list of UP candidates does have a few “turncoats” and leaders say this is because they fit into regional caste calculations. BSP Rajya Sabha MP S P S Baghel has been fielded as the BJP candidate from Firozabad to woo the backward Gadariya community while former BSP MP Rajesh Verma has been fielded from Sitapur to woo Kurmis in regions north of Lucknow. Ravindra Kushwaha, son of late SP MP Harikewal Prasad, has been given Salempur for its Keori votes.
In Bihar, by contrast, the BJP has given nine of 15 tickets announced to people inducted from outside. These include 12 sitting MPs who have been renominated, notably Ram Kripal Yadav. In UP’s list of 53, only four candidates were newly inducted.