Former minister and veteran leader Jaswant Singh isn’t the only one the BJP left out in the cold, picking old Congress hand Col. Sonaram Choudhary over him.
Fifty-six new entrants to the party have got tickets for the Lok Sabha polls, accounting for about 14 per cent of the 409 nominations announced so far.
This has caused much heartburn in the ranks, though pushed to the background by the party’s other, bigger headaches.
Half of the 56 seats which have gone to newcomers or turncoats from other parties — 28 — are in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. If 10 of the BJP’s 30 candidates in Bihar were inducted into the party recently, the number is 18 of 75 for Uttar Pradesh (25 per cent).
In Haryana, the BJP has given five of the eight seats it is contesting to newcomers, while in Delhi, three of its seven candidates are new.
“After the JD(U) broke its alliance with us, the BJP cadre in Bihar was enthusiastic as it meant 25 new Lok Sabha constituencies for party workers. But the tragedy is that the party gave 10 of them to (Ram Vilas) Paswan and (Upendra) Kushwaha’s parties and, of the remaining 15, over 10 to new entrants,” said a BJP leader from Bihar.
Senior party leaders in Uttar Pradesh also admit to anger in the ranks, adding that the resentment has not escalated so far due to the clout of BJP state in-charge Amit Shah and his proximity to prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. “Unless the tension is defused at the earliest, it is likely to cost us,” said a state party leader.
Several BJP leaders claim the anger may deflate the “Narendra Modi wave”.
A party leader slammed the “overconfidence” of local managers, pointing out that cadres “have started questioning the worth of over six months of hard work” with tickets going to outsiders.
Conceding this, a senior party leader said, “Given the momentum and enthusiasm among party cadres for this election, we should not have given such a large proportion of tickets in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to newcomers.”
However, BJP managers are confident the anger will die down once campaigning picks up. “The outsider-insider issue is natural, but this is a phase that follows candidate announcement and will get over soon. It is only at a few places that this issue persists longer and affects poll prospects,” said a leader.
Party managers also justify that the choice of candidates was governed by winnability and the need to balance social groups. “There are only about 7 per cent Thakurs in Barmer while Jats constitute 25 per cent of Jaswant Singh’s constituency,” said a party leader.
However, that logic does not hold in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh. The tickets to Jagdambika Pal (Domariyaganj), Kirti Vardhan Singh (Gonda) and Brijbhushan Sharan Singh (Kaiserganj), state leaders said, could rub backward communities the wrong way.
Moreover, in some cases, the beneficiaries are complete greenhorns, fielded from vital seats, including former Army chief Gen V K Singh (Ghaziabad), former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh (Baghpat), former home secretary R K Singh (Ara) and actor Paresh Rawal (Ahmedabad East).
In West Bengal, several from the entertainment industry have got tickets.