The ruling BJP released the first list of candidates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections here on Saturday. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will contest from his hometown Garakhpur and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from Sirathu constituency. The party announced 105 names for the 113 seats going to polls in the first and second phases. The BJP is hopeful of repeating its 2017 victory from these seats.

Releasing the names, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, also in-charge of the campaigning in the State, said the list has 63 sitting MLAs, including Ministers Suresh Khanna, Suresh Rana and Shrikant Sharma. Senior leader Baby Rani Maurya, Noida MLA Pankaj Singh (son of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh) have been given ticket.

Trouble for BJP

The BJP faced major resistance in western Uttar Pradesh after the three farm laws were passed (since repealed). The party also had to face protests over non-payment of sugarcane arrears to farmers.

The BJP has chosen candidates without affecting the social balance in the area. Pradhan said his party has fielded a Dalit candidate from a general seat and more will be fielded from unreserved seats.

“The BJP had contested the 2017 Assembly polls on the plank of fighting corruption and restoring law and order in the State, and the Yogi Adityanath government has done so and the State is riot-free now,” Pradhan said.

“Uttar Pradesh now ranks high in the list of the beneficiaries of the Modi government’s housing scheme, free cooking gas cylinder programme and Ayushman Bharat,” he added.

Adityanath thanked the BJP leadership and claimed that the party would return to power with an “overwhelming majority”.

“I express thanks to the Prime Minister, national president and BJP Parliamentary Board who decided to field me from Gorakhpur Urban seat in the current assembly elections,” Adityanath said.

“With the help of party workers and present and past representatives, the BJP will win not only in Gorakhpur but in the entire state and form its government again with an overwhelming majority,” he added.

BSP candidates

The BSP came out with a list of 53 candidates. Releasing the list, BSP supremo Mayawati attacked the principal Opposition party, the SP, and said the OBC outfit always had an anti-Dalit approach. She also played down recent defections from the BJP to the SP.

“Considering how some greedy politicians change parties during elections, it is necessary to strengthen anti-defection laws as such practices adversely impact democracy,” she said.

She added that efforts are on to give the impression that she is not going to contest.

“I have been a four-time Lok Sabha MP, three-time Rajya Sabha MP, and MLA and MLC on two occasions. Till the time BSP founder Kanshi Ram was fit, he handled all the election affairs and I used to contest polls. However, after his death, the party responsibilities fell on me,” Mayawati told reporters in Lucknow.

SP-RLD list

The SP-RLD alliance released its first list on Friday. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav said the BJP has sent Adityanath back home (to Gorakhpur) after earlier saying he would contest from Mathura, Prayagraj, Ayodhya or Deoband.

“I am happy that the BJP has already sent him home (Gorakhpur). Although he is in Gorakhpur, he had a ticket dated March 11 (counting of votes on March 10) booked for it earlier. I think that he should stay back in Gorakhpur and there is no need for him to return (to Lucknow). Heartiest congratulations,” Yadav said.

Yadav indicated that more BJP leaders will join the SP.

Cong candidates for Punjab

In the other key State going to polls, Punjab, the Congress released the first list of candidates. Senior leaders Charanjeet Singh Channi, Partap Singh Bajwa, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa have been given ticket.

Campaigning curbs

Even as parties prepare for the big fight, electioneering will not have the usual sound and fury, with the Election Commission banning all roadshows and all types of rallies and processions till January 22 in the election-bound States. Parties can hold indoor meetings of a maximum of 300 persons or 50 per cent of the hall’s capacity or the limit set by the State Disaster Management Authority.