Gearing up for a fierce electoral battle to retain power at the centre, the BJP appeared to have pruned the candidate list significantly. In the first list, the party has changed candidates in six constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, two in Maharashtra, four in Assam, one each in Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The BJP has already announced it will not field any sitting MPs or those who lost the 2018 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, where the party faced a humiliating defeat in the November polls. While the party said it wanted to bring “new faces and vigour”, the five seats announced included two former MLAs and a former MP. Gomti Sai has been picked instead of four-time MP and Union Minister Vishnu Dev Sai from the Jashpur seat.
Watch: BJP holds discussion on LS seats in UP, WB at CEC meeting
In Uttar Pradesh, where the NDA won 72 of the 80 seats, names to 29 were released. While most changes in UP are in constituencies dominated by Scheduled Castes and Backward Castes, Union Minister Krishna Raj, who represented Shahjahanpur, an SC-reserved constituency, was replaced by Arun Sagar. In Agra, former Union Minister Ram Shankar Katheria, who is chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, was replaced by and former Samajwadi Party leader, S P Singh Baghel.
Amit Shah underlines power shift in BJP
Amit Shah’s decision to not contest 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections and his entry to Rajya Sabha was a clear signal inside the party that he is no longer interested in state politics. The decision to contest Lok Sabha is a signal of his larger ambition in national politics. It also marks the end of the electoral career of party veteran L K Advani and heralds the rising grip of the third generation of party leaders in the BJP.
Two MPs were replaced in Uttarakhand in the Garhwal and Nainital-Udhamsing Nagar seats. Former Union Minister and party’s senior leader B C Khanduri, whose son has recently joined the Congress, has been denied a ticket in Garhwal and the party’s former Uttarakhand president Tirath Singh Rawat was named for the Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha seat.
In West Bengal, where it hopes to compensate for possible losses in the Hindi heartland, the BJP fielded almost all turncoats who joined the party recently including Khagen Murmu, a former CPM MLA and Arjun Singh, who jumped ship from the TMC.
Also in the first list is Congress MLA Umesh Jadhav, whose resignation is yet to be accepted by the Karnataka Assembly Speaker. Jadhav will take on Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge from Gulbarga. In Karnataka, the BJP named 14 of its 15 sitting MPs again ignoring local anti-incumbency and banking on the power of the Prime Minister.
Of the 16 candidates announced for Rajasthan, 14 are incumbent MPs. Santosh Ahlawat, the only woman MP from Rajasthan was replaced by Narendra Khinchal. In Odisha, two former BJD MPs were nominated from the constituencies they won in 2014 — Baijayant Panda (Kendrapara) and Balabhadra Majhi (Nabarangpur).
(With inputs from Johnson T A in Bengaluru, Kavita Upadhyay in Dehradun, Deep Mukherjee in Jaipur, Sampad Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, Dipankar Ghose in Raipur and Lalmani Verma)