New Delhi, March 14: Prodigals and defectors were rewarded while loyalists and veterans were dropped. This sums up the story of the BJP’s first list of 136 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.
Kalyan Singh, who returned to the BJP after a five-year exile, was given a ticket from Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh where sitting MP Chattrapal Singh was left high and dry. Bulandshahr is a reasonably safe seat for the BJP because it is dominated by the backward caste Lodh-Rajputs to which Kalyan belongs.
Former NCP leader V.C. Shukla, who joined the BJP yesterday, was gifted a ticket from Chhattisgarh’s Mahasamund, his former constituency. His brother S.C. Shukla, who is in the Congress, represented Mahasamund but has moved to Raipur this time. The Congress has not yet named a replacement.
The BJP’s central election committee, which sat for almost the whole day in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence, decided that other Uttar Pradesh leaders, notably Kalraj Mishra and Rajnath Singh who had indicated their desire to contest, would not and instead engage themselves in the campaign. The committee, said sources, was yet to decide on Dilip Singh Judeo of the cash-on-disc notoriety.
Chattrapal, also a Lodh-Rajput, was originally in the Janata Dal. He joined the BJP in 1991 when it peaked in Uttar Pradesh and since then, has consistently won from Bulandshahr. He was one of the few Lodh-Rajputs who refused to back Kalyan’s covert rebellion against the BJP during the 1999 elections and was made a minister of state in gratitude.
The other well-known names on the list are Vajpayee from Lucknow, .K. Advani from Gandhinagar and human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi from Allahabad.
Among the other new entrants to be obliged in this round is Maneka Gandhi from her pocket borough Pilibhit.
Vinay Katiyar, who heads the Uttar Pradesh unit, was shifted from Faizabad-Ayodhya, a seat he has never lost since 1991, to Lakhimpur-Kheri reportedly on his request. Katiyar had a tough time retaining the Faizabad seat in 1999.
However, it was apparent from the list of 54 of the 80 candidates finalised for Uttar Pradesh that the BJP has not pitted a heavyweight against the Samajwadi Party in the latter’s strongholds. It has settled for a lightweight in Sambhal, Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s former constituency.
In Agra, another seat held by the Samajwadi in the outgoing House, the BJP gave its three-time MP, Bhagwan Singh Rawat, a wide berth and went in for a first-timer.
Etah is another place where it seems to have gone soft on the Samajwadi. Three-time winner Mahadeep Singh Shakhya was passed over for a newcomer.
A section of the BJP regards Mulayam Singh as a post-poll ally.
Today’s list also covers constituencies in Orissa, Maharashtra, Delhi, Bihar, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Jammu and Kashmir.