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Since 1st March, 1999
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Red faces and ruckus over leaked list

New Delhi, Nov. 5: Today’s release of the first list of BJP candidates for the Rajasthan Assembly elections was marked by a leak and slogan-shouting by supporters of those denied tickets.

The final list of candidates for Madhya Pradesh, another of the heartland states going to the polls on December 1, could not see the light of day as serious differences among factional leaders held up its release.

A first list of 35 candidates for the Delhi polls was also released today. Chief ministerial candidate Madan Lal Khurana will be fielded from the Moti Nagar constituency, while MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad’s wife Poonam will contest polls from Gole Market. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit had defeated Kirti in the last elections from the same constituency.

Earlier, a slogan-shouting crowd at the party headquarters tried to mob BJP leaders and for a while, managed to block the car of Pramod Mahajan, general secretary in charge of Rajasthan. Mahajan was leaving for Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence for a central election committee meeting after addressing the media.

An angry crowd gathered outside a hall where Rajasthan chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje was speaking to the media. Police had to be summoned to restore order as supporters of former MLA Amar Singh Middha shouted slogans against the BJP, the RSS and Vasundhara.

The party had said yesterday the Madhya Pradesh list would be announced at 8 the same evening and the Rajasthan list containing the names of 93 candidates released at a joint news conference at 1 pm today.

But before Vasundhara and other state leaders could release the candidates’ names, three Hindi dailies with Rajasthan editions published the list. Red-faced leaders put off the briefing till 3.30 pm as they sought to probe who had leaked the list. “This has happened for the first time in our party. We will look into it. Even the list given to the Prime Minister has been taken back...” a senior party leader said.

Despite the drama attending its release, the Rajasthan list is quite balanced, with winnability being the main criterion for selecting candidates.

Vasundhara will contest the Jhalrapatan seat, which falls under her Lok Sabha constituency of Jhalawar. Other prominent candidates are Narpat Singh Rajvi, son-in-law of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who will contest from Chittorgarh, and Kiran Yadav, wife of Alwar MP Jaswant Singh Yadav. She will contest from Tizara.

Rajvi wanted to shift to Amir, but was not allowed to do so, pointing to Shekhawat’s declining clout in the selection process.

Another spouse to get a ticket is Kamala Kaswan, who will contest the Sadulpur seat. Her husband, Ram Singh Kaswan, is the BJP MP from Churu.

The election committee has not yet named who will take on chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

On Monday, the BJP had released 139 names for the 230-seat Madhya Pradesh Assembly. It finalised another 32 names yesterday, but the remaining 59 candidates will only be announced on Friday. Mahajan denied that the delay in finalising candidates was because of squabbling. He said unlike other parties, the BJP had to wait to get its list approved by the Prime Minister.

But it is no secret that the Madhya Pradesh list has been held up because of rivalry between Union minister Sumitra Mahajan and chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti, who are both seeking more tickets for their followers.

Mahajan’s son is seeking a ticket, the brother of former chief minister Sunderlal Patwa wants to be re-nominated and Union minister Vikram Verma is demanding a seat for his wife. The Bharti camp is opposing these demands and the high command is in a fix.

A Vajpayee lookalike provided some comic relief amid the maddening rush of ticket-seekers and supporters of those who had been denied nomination.

Government employee Ram Avtar Bharadwaj, 52, was also seeking a ticket, from Phulera in Jaipur district. But he was mobbed by the media and onlookers, whom he obliged by mimicking the Prime Minister.

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