The BJP announced 102 more candidates on Saturday, including Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad from Patna Sahib (Bihar), which was won by Shatrughan Sinha in 2014, Jayant Sinha, who will seek re-election from Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh, and Shripad Naik from North Goa.
The party decided to make its Kerala unit general secretary K Surendran, who was the Sangh Parivar’s face during the recent Sabarimala agitation against entry of women of all ages to the hill shrine, as candidate from Pathanamthitta constituency, which houses the temple.
In Maharashtra, the party replaced sitting MPs for Jalgaon, Dindori, Solapur and Pune constituencies. BJP chief whip Anurag Thakur has been fielded from Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, again, while national spokesperson Sambit Patra will contest from Puri, Odisha, ending speculation over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s candidature from the constituency.
Actress Sumalatha, wife of late Congress leader and former Union minister Ambareesh, figured in the BJP released on Saturday evening as Independent candidate from Mandya, Karnataka. Sumalatha, who was seeking ticket from the Congress to contest from Mandya but was rejected as the seat went to ally JD(S), will take on Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy.
In Bihar, the NDA announced candidates for 39 of state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, fielding one Muslim candidate and three women so far. While retaining sitting MPs on most seats, one BJP leader allocated a different seat is Union minister Giriraj Singh – he had won from Nawada in 2014 but will now contest from Begusarai; the Nawada seat has gone to ally LJP.
BJP’s only Muslim face from Bihar in 2014, Shahnawaz Hussain, who had unsuccessfully contested from Bhagalpur, has been dropped from the list of candidates. The BJP has contested on the Bhagalpur seat since the Jan Sangh days, and sources said the seat was given to JD(U) since the party wanted to deny a ticket to Hussain. In Bihar, the BJP list is dominated by upper castes – the party has fielded five candidates from Rajput community, two Brahmins and one Bhumihar and Kayashtha each. The JD(U), which won only two seats in 2014, retained both sitting MPs: Santosh Kushwaha (Purnea) and Kaushlendra Kumar (Nalanda).
In Odisha, Kandhamal MP Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh on Saturday joined the BJP, days after BJD decided against repeating her from the constituency. The BJD has backed its newly inducted member and Rajya Sabha MP Achyuta Samanta to contest from Kandhamal. Singh, the third BJD MP after Baijayant Panda and Balabhadra Majhi to join BJP, told the media, “I am impressed with the leadership of PM Modi.”
The BJP has renominated Panda and Majhi from their respective constituencies – Kendrapara and Nabarangpur – raising questions on whether the party has strong candidates in the state, and leaving some long-time workers and leaders unhappy. An influential Sangh Parivar affiliate member, who claims to mobilise votes for BJP in Odisha, told The Sunday Express, “With BJP in power (at Centre), many people will knock its doors. But this is a party built on ideology. The BJP needs to remain gunatmak (qualitative) and committed to values, not sankhyatmak (quantitative).”
Some BJP members in coastal and western Odisha said they are disappointed to see the party accommodate “opportunists” and not “believers” in powerful positions. “New candidates like Aparajita Sarangi are welcome. At least, she left her job (as IAS officer) and took a risk to contest polls. But the former BJD leaders have joined us to protect their political relevance or business empire,” a BJP leader said.
The BJP has backed Sarangi contest from Bhubaneswar seat.
In Kerala, senior party leaders, including state president P S Sreedharan Pillai, were reportedly eyeing Pathanamthitta seat, which has emerged top on the party’s poll scheme in the wake of the Sabarimala agitation. The BJP has given top priority for this central Kerala constituency along with Thiruvananthapuram seat.
After his name was announced as candidate, Surendran said entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala temple will be debated in the constituency. Congress has fielded sitting MP from Pathanamthitta Anto Antony, who is seeking mandate for a third time, while CPI(M) has fielded former media professional Veena George. In Maharashtra, the BJP party fielded sitting MLA Smita Wagh as candidate for Jalgaon seat, dropping sitting MP A T Nana Patil. In Dindori, Dr Bharati Pawar, former NCP leader who joined BJP on Friday, replaces sitting MP Harishchandra Chavan.
The BJP sprung a surprise by fielding Dr Jaysidheshwar Swami of Siddheshwar Mutt in Solapur, replacing Sharad Bansode. In 2014, Bansode had defeated Congress’s former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Reckoning the political challenge in Nanded, BJP fielded Pratap Chikkalikar, who was once a close aide of Congress leader former CM Ashok Chavan, whose wife Amrita is the Congress candidate this time.
The BJP also dropped sitting Pune MP Anil Shirole and gave the ticket to Maharashtra minister Girish Bapat. In Baramati, Kanchan Rahul Kul will take on NCP’s sitting MP Supriya Sule. In Madhya Pradesh, the first list has repeated most sitting MPs. The list does not feature crucial seats such as Vidisha, represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who has opted out of contest, and Indore, represented by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Himadri Singh who joined BJP two days ago, has been fielded from Shahdol, replacing veteran Gyan Singh. Union minister Narendra Tomar, who won from Gwalior in 2014, will now contest from Morena, replacing Anoop Mishra, a nephew of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
BJP state president Rakesh Singh will again contest from Jabalpur.
Chintamani Malviya, who had made controversial comments in the wake of the Supreme Court ban on firecrackers and against filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali over the film Padmavat, has been dropped from Ujjain. He has been replaced by Anil Firojiya, who lost he recent Assembly election from Tarana.
Former state BJP president Nandkumar Chouhan has been fielded from Khandwa.