The Telegraph
Thursday , January 12 , 2017

Kin thicker than Modi

- Ticket advice falls on deaf ears


New Delhi, Jan. 11: Several BJP leaders are said to be seeking tickets for relatives in the Uttar Pradesh elections, disregarding Narendra Modi's exhortation to party leaders to work for the welfare of the poor and not pressure the leadership to wangle nominations for kith and kin.

BJP veterans do not appear to have taken Modi's call seriously. Sources said prominent party leaders and ministers such as Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra were among those keen on tickets for their sons. Former chief minister and current Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh is reportedly seeking a berth for his grandson, BJP insiders said. The claims could not be corroborated with the three leaders.

Addressing the BJP national executive last week, Modi had urged party leaders not to exert pressure for tickets for relatives but leave it to the party to decide.

Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj is a strong contender for a party ticket. Pankaj has been with the BJP for many years now and is a general secretary of the Uttar Pradesh unit. He wants to contest from a seat in Ghaziabad. Rajnath was elected an MP from Ghaziabad in the 2009 polls.

Kalraj is over 75 years old, the informal retirement age fixed by Modi, and wants his legacy to be passed to son Amit.

Kalraj is one of the tallest Brahmin leaders of the BJP and he is believed to have been retained in the central government with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh elections. He could be dropped after the results. Amit, like Rajnath's son Pankaj, has also been actively involved with the Uttar Pradesh unit as an executive member.

Kalyan, the former chief minister under whose tenure the Babri mosque was brought down, is demanding a ticket for grandson Sanju. His son, Rajveer, is already a BJP MP from Etah.

The insiders said the leadership would find it difficult to ignore the demands of the senior leaders, all prominent faces in Uttar Pradesh. If Rajnath, also a former chief minister, is seen as the Thakur (upper caste) face of the party, Kalraj is equally important as a Brahmin leader. Kalyan is from the backward Lodh caste. "The party cannot afford to set aside Kalyan Singh's plea. Lodh votes are extremely crucial for the BJP's victory in UP," a BJP leader said.

The BJP's central election committee, which includes Modi, is likely to clear the final list of candidates for Uttar Pradesh once the current "inauspicious" period is over after Makar Sankranti on January 14. The list for Punjab and Goa, however, will be released before the auspicious period sets in since the two states go to the polls early, on February 4. Voting in Uttar Pradesh kicks off on February 11.

Not only BJP old-timers but leaders who recently changed political loyalties appear to have bargained for tickets for their sons and daughters before joining the party.

Prominent on this list is Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the senior Congress leader who defected and joined the BJP last October. Party sources said she wanted her son Mayank to be fielded. Joshi could not be contacted to corroborate the claim.

Others on the list are two leaders who crossed over from the Bahujan Samaj Party not long ago - Swamy Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak. While Maurya is lobbying for his son and daughter, Pathak wants his wife to contest, sources said.

Maurya's defection was seen as a big boost for the BJP's attempts to woo the non-Yadav backward castes. The former BSP general secretary has a sway over his Maurya/Kushwaha caste, which the BJP hopes to use as a counter to the Yadavs. BSP chief Mayawati had alleged the two leaders left because she denied tickets to their relatives. The two leaders could not be contacted for comment.

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