BJP sticks to 2014 template

New Delhi: There are no dramatic surprises in the BJP first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, except for the notable omission of L K Advani and Kirit Somaiya.

The party, it seems, has decided not to change the template that worked in 2014 and most of the sitting parliamentarians, barring a few, have been retained. However, in UP, which is witnessing much political traction, the party has dropped six of its sitting members, including a Union Minister.

So, the party has essentially decided to ride on the caste arithmetic worked out meticulously by  in 2014 and PM Modi’s personal charisma. As was expected, Modi will again contest from Varanasi; the announcement has nipped the speculation about him deciding to stand from Puri, the temple town in Odisha.

The BJP’s assessment is that having PM Modi as a candidate in Varanasi will help shore up its tally in UP, where it had won a staggering 71 of the 80 seats in 2014, but has faced setbacks in recent by polls. In Varanasi, PM Modi had won by a huge margin over his rivals Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’s Ajay Rai.

Party president Amit Shah will make his debut in Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar, a seat held by Lal Krishna Advani and which the latter had won by more than 4 lakh votes. In fact, Advani had been winning the seat consecutively since 1998. But he figures nowhere in the first list, an indication of the extent of his marginalisation. There was some speculation about Advani’s son, Jayant, contesting from the seat but that was mere conjecture.

Another potential candidate from Gandhinagar was the daughter of former Gujarat CM and governor of MP Anandiben Patel. Patel was eyeing the seat for her daughter Anar. There is no mention of Murli Manohar Josh in the first list either. Post-Pulwama, the BJP seems to have overcome its incumbency worries.

Apart from UP, the only other state it has dropped its sitting lawmakers is in Chhattisgarh. According to observers, the party seems to be convinced about the winnability of its candidates despite the general perception about the poor performance of some of them. So, it has again pitted Union Minister Smriti Irani against Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.

Although Gandhi had defeated the actor-turned-politician by over a lakh votes in 2014, the party believes that she has gained significant ground since then. Likewise, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will fight from Lucknow and Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS.

Gen. V. K. Singh (retd) has been renominated from Ghaziabad, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Jaipur Rural), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat), and D.V. Sadananda Gowda (Bengaluru North). All are sitting MPs. In Rajasthan, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje will not contest the polls, rather her son Dushyant will fight for the fourth time.

Film actress-turned politician Hema Malini has retained her Mathura seat and Union Minister Babul Supriyo has not been shiftedfrom Asanol, where he will face Trinamool Congress’s Moon Moon Sen. The party has also fielded Bengali film actress Locket Chatterjee from Hooghly.

BJP’s Kerala strongman Kummanam Rajasekharan, who recently quit as Mizoram Governor, will fight against Congress’s Shashi Tharoor in hot seat Thiruvanthapuram, while Union Minister K.J. Alphons will contest from Ernakulam. The BJP has fielded its Tamil Nadu unit boss Tamilisai Soundararajan from Thoothukudi from where DMK’s K. Kanimozhi is contesting.

The RSS has conveyed to the BJP its own internal assessment that the direct fight between nationalist and other forces would see it through. While admitting that the SP-BSP alliance will do better in UP, the RSS has endorsed the BJP’s calculation that its loss in the Hindi heartland, including Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, will be compensated in West Bengal, Odisha and Maharashtra.

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