By fielding winnable candidates, reining in rebels, the party is making each seat count

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s list of 53 candidates announced for Uttar Pradesh demonstrates the killer instinct of the State election in-charge Amit Shah.

Besides focusing on individual candidate’s winnability, Narendra Modi’s trusted aide has successfully managed to rein in squabbling leaders in the battleground State.

The bubble about Murli Manohar Joshi’s resistance to vacate the Varanasi seat for Modi burst with the former finally agreeing to switch to Kanpur. Joshi had already inaugurated his election office in Varanasi but was persuaded to vacate the seat for Modi. “Joshiji said the party should look after Kalraj Mishra. He was concerned that Mishra had been preparing to contest from Kanpur and he should not be offended. But Mishraji had already agreed to contest from Deoria,” said a BJP source.

Deft moves

Modi’s candidature from Varanasi is critical as not only does Kashi have a symbolic significance for the BJP, the presence of the party’s PM candidate in the region is expected to send a positive message in at least 30-40 neighbouring seats. Joshi conceding the seat to Modi without expressing resentment, at least publicly, shows deft political handling.

The announcement of ticket distribution was delayed till March 15 — just 25 days before the first phase of elections in UP, that is on April 10 — is also targeted at ironing out local infighting by the sheer force of last-minute electioneering. The rebels have not been given much time to sabotage the BJP’s chances. Furthermore, an effort had clearly been made to handle disgruntled leaders.

On Sunday morning, the sitting MP from Lucknow, Lalji Tandon, too, bowed to the party’s decision to field Rajnath Singh from his seat. Tandon, who had earlier said he would vacate his seat only for Modi, retracted on Sunday. “One has to understand that in a democratic system, a party has every right to take decisions in its best interests. I believe nobody should go against the party’s decision. Being a committed worker of the BJP, I have always accepted the party’s decisions wholeheartedly,” said Tandon.

The list in itself represents that Shah has picked the candidates best suited to win individual seats. For the purpose, the BJP has fielded sitting MPs, MLAs as well as weaned leaders away from other parties.

Key imports

SP Singh Baghel, the BJP’s candidate from Firozabad, is an import figure from the Samajwadi Party (SP). Similarly, the party candidate for the Aonla seat is another rebel from the SP, the local stalwart Dharmendra Kashyap. Kashyap fought against Maneka Gandhi, the BJP candidate from Aonla in 2009.

She won by a narrow margin of around 8,000 votes. Maneka Gandhi has switched to Pilibhit this year and the BJP snatched Kashyap, who put up a good fight against her in the last election. Party candidate from Mohanlalgunj, Kaushal Kishore, has been a communist.

He had formed the Rashtravadi Communist Party in UP before he joined the BJP. Party veteran and former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s son Rajvir Singh has been fielded from Etah.

Kalyan Singh himself has been promised an elevation to the Rajya Sabha. Similarly, there are seats where other imports — the Congress MP from Domariyagunj Jagdambika Pal who has recently resigned from his party and Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the SP MP from Kaisargunj — are expected to be fielded.

Sharan Singh is expected to contest from Gonda on the BJP ticket and Pal will contest again from Domariyagunj on the BJP ticket.

Pal met Rajnath Singh on Sunday apparently to wish him on the occasion of Holi.

Clearly, the BJP’s candidate selection for the most critical State in this election has been driven by the sole criteria of who can win. The party is clearly making each seat count.

(This article was published on March 16, 2014)
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