New Delhi, Nov. 14: The BJP’s chief ministerial nominees will contest from only one seat and not more, as was speculated until yesterday.
Party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu clarified that Madhya Pradesh candidate Uma Bharti will stick to Bada Malhera, from where she filed her nomination on Wednesday, and that Vasundhara Raje will contest only from Jhalrapatan, the seat originally chosen for her.
The BJP decided to pit the leader of the Opposition in the Chhattisgarh legislature and tribal MLA Nand Kumar Sai against Ajit Jogi in Marwahi. Sai has withdrawn his nomination from Tapkara, where he had already filed his papers from.
Speculation that Uma and Vasundhara had got cold feet and wanted to fight from a second constituency gained ground yesterday after the Samajwadi Party withdrew its candidate from Bada Malhera in favour of the CPI nominee, who is believed to be a strong contender.
Uma reportedly indicated that not only did she want to change her constituency but that she wanted to contest from two places: Datia in Datia district and Chandala, which, like Bada Malhera, was in Chattarpur district. Datia was her first choice because it is the seat of the Pitambara Peeth and Uma hoped to gain from the religiosity of its voters.
Vasundhara was believed to have asked for a second seat, Pilawa. Like Jhalrapatan, Pilawa is part of her Lok Sabha constituency Jhalawar, from where she has won five times.
Once the news was widely reported, the party decided it had to act before it percolated down to the cadre and “demoralised” them. Vasundhara filed her nomination today, accompanied by the BJP general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Pramod Mahajan, and Union Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain.
Party sources admitted that if the chief ministerial candidates were seen to be “diffident” about winning their own seats, workers might conclude the BJP was losing the elections.
BJP’s spin doctors claimed that the announcement by the party spokesperson yesterday that Vasundhara was considering a second seat was a “strategy” to “fox” the Congress. “Our feedback was the Congress was looking for a formidable contender to fight Vasundhara but they were not sure which seat she would finally opt for,” a sources said.
The sources said they had information that the Congress was thinking of fielding Rajesh Pilot’s widow, Rama Pilot, against Vasundhara and she was a “strong” adversary.
To “reassure” the cadre that it was on a “winning” spree, the BJP persuaded Sai to withdraw from Tapkara and go the whole hog to take on Jogi in Marwahi. The BJP will package the battle as one between an “asli (genuine) tribal and a nakli (fake) tribal — the context is the allegation that Jogi had fudged the certificate attesting his tribal status.