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Ticket queue at BJP door

- Improved performance and Modi spark wish to contest LS polls
Rahul Sinha

Calcutta, Jan. 4: The state BJP headquarters is flooded with applications for tickets to contest the Lok Sabha elections, unlike the past when the party struggled to field candidates for Bengal’s 42 seats.

The Bengal BJP said it was “pleasantly surprised” by the development, adding that such “enthusiasm” was last seen when the party was in power at the Centre under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership.

BJP leaders attributed the “new-found eagerness”, apparently among people “from all walks of life”, to the party’s improving performance in recent polls, Narendra Modi’s “charisma” and the general “anti-Congress mood”.

“Till now, we have received 316 applications seeking nominations for the Lok Sabha elections. We are scrutinising the CVs before forwarding them to our central leadership,” state BJP chief spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya told The Telegraph yesterday afternoon.

“Going by the trend, we are expecting the number of ticket seekers to cross 500 by the time we start finalising the candidate list,” he added.

Buoyed by the growing list of prospective candidates, the state BJP has decided to contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats.

“We are overwhelmed by the new-found enthusiasm among the people of Bengal about the BJP. So we have decided to field candidates for all the seats,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha said.

In the past six months, the number of primary members of the BJP in the state has increased to two lakh from one lakh.

Sinha said that although the party’s vote share had hovered around 4 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2011 Assembly polls, recent elections had thrown up better numbers.

In the polls to the Howrah municipality in June last year, then mayor Mamata Jaiswal of the CPM had lost to a BJP candidate.

In two other wards, the BJP’s candidates had come second. In the recent by-election to a ward in the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality, the BJP candidate had bagged over 18 per cent votes.

The BJP won four of the Assembly elections in five states late last year.

R.K. Mohanty, a retired IPS officer who switched to the BJP from the Congress recently, said: “Modiji has created a wave across the country and raised the aspirations of people, who want him to become the Prime Minister.”

Mohanty, who had retired as the director-general of Bengal Armed Police in 2006, said he had joined the BJP “only because of Modiji”. Mohanty, who had been a member of the Congress’s executive committee, is among 12 former IPS officers who have joined the BJP recently.

BJP sources said those who had sent their poll applications to the state BJP headquarters in Calcutta included a serving IAS officer in Delhi, several former bureaucrats, army personnel, lawyers, sports personalities, film actors, professors and doctors.

“A 65-year-old former Bengali IFS officer who now lives in Delhi has expressed his desire to contest the Lok Sabha elections,” a state BJP leader said.

Former two-time Trinamul MP Bikram Sarkar, who joined the BJP last month in Delhi, said he was “in talks with a dozen former bureaucrats and army officers who have shown interest in becoming BJP candidates for the elections”.

“But I will not take any names,” he said, adding that political rivals would harass them.

A central BJP leader said over the phone last night from Delhi: “We did withdraw our nominee for the Howrah Lok Sabha by-election last June under certain compulsions. But as far as the general election is concerned, we will field candidates for all 42 seats in Bengal.”