Former BJP national president LK Advani exchanges greetings with party workers in Ranchi on Sunday. The veteran leader was in the capital to release a book on former Gujarat governor Kailashpati Mishra. Speaking on the occasion, Advani said that the BJP would sweep the Lok Sabha elections this time and emerge as undisputed single largest party in India. “The Congress will face its worst-ever poll humiliation.” He further clarified that projecting Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate did not mean that other BJP chief ministers in different states were incompetent.
Text by Sudhir Kumar Mishra; picture by Prashant Mitra
“Jaiye jaiye jaldi kijiye, Modiji ka prasad bant raha hai. Der kijiyega to sab khatam ho jayega (Go, go, rush fast. Modiji’s blessings are being distributed. Everything will be finished if you are late),” a middle-rank BJP leader to a Lok Sabha ticket aspirant, who was hovering at the party’s Ranchi office while the election committee meeting was going on yesterday
Ranchi, March 9: The light-hearted teasing perhaps best mirrors the scene in the state BJP, which is suddenly finding itself grappling with the problem of plenty.
A host of leaders, both old and new, have expressed their wish to contest the Lok Sabha elections on BJP tickets, putting the state party brass in a major fix because it can field new faces only in seven of the 14 parliamentary seats.
The remaining seats already have sitting MPs — Yashwant Sinha (Hazaribagh), P.N. Singh (Dhanbad), Sudarshan Bhagat (Lohardaga), Devidhan Besra (Rajmahal), Karia Munda (Khunti), Nishikant Dubey (Godda) and Ravindra Kumar Pandey (Giridih) —from the party, and it is obviously not keen to upset the equation in most of them, except perhaps Rajmahal.
Insiders said that at yesterday’s meeting, around 140 applications for tickets were received against the seven seats that are not with the BJP.
“The central leadership will take a final call on these seven seats. Yesterday, the election committee members had talks on the remaining seats and shortlisted candidates after examining thoroughly whether his profile is in sync with the particular constituency,” state BJP president Ravindra Rai said, indicating that a lot would depend on the Opposition’s choice of candidates.
The party is likely to announce its Jharkhand nominees in Delhi on March 13.
According to sources, a lot of ticket hopefuls like Kameshwar Baitha are likely to be disappointed as the party is under pressure to give preference to committed leaders rather than turncoats.
Baitha, the JMM MP from Palamau, rebelled against his party and joined the BJP with the hope of bagging a ticket from the same seat.
The former Maoist has even made his intention clear to the party after he submitted an application.
“But, interestingly, his name did not figure among the final three candidates recommended for Palamau. Instead, the party has suggested the names of Brajmohan Ram, Shivdhari Ram and V.D. Ram (former DGP),” a source said.
Chatra, which probably has the highest number of claimants with the party receiving 42 applications, will be another tough call. Sitting MP Inder Singh Namdhari, who won the 2009 election with tactical support from BJP, is finding it hard to hold on his sway. Now, Namdhari is believed to be keen on joining the BJP on the condition that he is given a party ticket.
But the catch is that the BJP bosses have rightly sensed that the party’s rank and file will protest if Namdhari is inducted into the party fold.
Hence, the election committee played safe and recommended the names of party loyalists Sunil Singh, Yadunath Pandey and Pradeep Verma for the much-coveted seat.
All eyes are also on Santhal Pargana strongman Hemlal Murmu, who resigned from the JMM yesterday after he fell out with chief minister Hemant Soren over the Rajmahal seat. Although the election war horse has met BJP leaders in the past, he is not disclosing his cards yet.
Sources said that in case the BJP decides to drop its Rajmahal MP Devidhan Besra, he could be accommodated.
Similar is the case with Congress leader Manoj Yadav, who may join hands with his rival provided he is fielded from Koderma, which Ravindra Rai is himself eyeing.
But Rai, sources added, received an earful from the central leadership for repeatedly lobbying for his candidature from Koderma. “Now, the central leadership will take a call on Koderma,” the source added.
“Everybody wants to be benefited by the Modi wave. It is impossible to ignore the party’s dedicated workers and leaders. There is a lot more other problems,” said a senior leader.
The party is also finding it difficult to find a constituency to accommodate a member of the Vaishya community, a key support base. A Vaishya candidate can fight from an unreserved seat only. In that case, the BJP is left with only Koderma and Jamshedpur.
“I don’t know whether this time a representative from the Vaishya community will get a ticket or not,” said Jamshedpur (East) MLA Raghubar Das.
As for the other seats, the choice is between sitting MLA C.P. Singh and former MP Ramtahal Choudhary for Ranchi, insiders said.
Either Barkuwar Gagrai or Lakshman Gilua will contest from Singhbhum, while in Dumka, the party is left with not much of a choice except Louis Marandi and Sunil Soren, who can give a decent fight to JMM chief Shibu Soren.
The BJP is expected to hold another closed-door meeting with top leaders within a few days to narrow down the number of claimants and finalise a few.