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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Bansuri Swaraj debuts, Shivraj Singh Chouhan nudged into Lok Sabha battle as BJP unveils first candidates list

Modi and Shah will contest from their old seats of Varanasi and Gandhinagar, respectively, and defence minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, as before. Women and child development minister Smriti Irani will again be fielded from Amethi, the venue of her triumph over Rahul Gandhi in 2019

J.P. Yadav New Delhi Published 03.03.24, 06:03 AM
Bansuri Swaraj inNew Delhi on Saturday.

Bansuri Swaraj inNew Delhi on Saturday. PTI picture

The BJP on Saturday announced its first list of 195 candidates for the general election, featuring both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, getting off the blocks before the formal announcement of the poll schedule.

Modi and Shah will contest from their old seats of Varanasi and Gandhinagar, respectively, and defence minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, as before. Women and child development minister Smriti Irani will again be fielded from Amethi, the venue of her triumph over Rahul Gandhi in 2019.

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The list contains some surprises: late BJP leader and popular foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s daughter, Bansuri Swaraj, has been fielded from the New Delhi seat.

Bansuri, who replaces sitting MP and junior foreign minister Meenakshi Lekhi, thanked Modi and other party leaders in a post on X.

Another surprise is the candidature of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Vidisha — a likely prelude to appointing him a Union minister to prevent him from meddling in state politics.

Chouhan, recently replaced as chief minister by the low-profile Mohan Yadav, had multiple times reaffirmed his intention to remain in state politics.

Delhi has witnessed major changes with the sitting members replaced in four of the five seats held by the BJP.

The ousted members are Ramesh Bidhuri (South Delhi), who had mouthed communal expletives against BSP member Danish Ali in the Lok Sabha, Harsh Vardhan (Chandni Chowk), Lekhi and Parvesh Verma (West Delhi). Verma had been accused of making provocative statements just before the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.

Sitting Bhopal MP and terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur has been dropped, too.

Junior minister Ajay Mishra “Teni”, whose son faces murder charges in connection with the minister’s car crushing protesting farmers to death in 2021, has been repeated from Kheri, Uttar Pradesh.

Popular Bhojpuri actor Pawan Singh has been fielded from Asansol to take on sitting Trinamul MP Shatrughan Sinha, a Bollywood face hailing from Bihar. Bengal BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s brother Soumendu Adhikari will be the candidate from Contai.

Former chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, currently in the Rajya Sabha, has been nominated for Tripura West. Biplab, known for making controversial statements, was suddenly replaced as Tripura chief minister in 2022.

The first list names 34 ministers, including a few Rajya Sabha members whose terms expire in April. Among them are environment minister Bhupendra Yadav (fielded from Alwar, Rajasthan), health minister Mansukh Mandaviya (Porbandar), fisheries minister Parshottam Rupala (Rajkot) and junior minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Thiruvananthapuram).

Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, a defector from the Congress, has been fielded from Guna in Madhya Pradesh, a seat he had lost to his then BJP rival in 2019.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will again contest from Kota, Rajasthan.

The list covers seats in 16 states and 2 Union Territories. The BJP had lost or won several of these seats narrowly in 2019.

Announcing the names, party general secretary Vinod Tawde said the first list had 28 women, 47 young politicians and 57 OBCs apart from 27 Dalit and 18 tribal candidates.

“All communities and castes have been given adequate representation,” Tawde said, stressing the NDA’s target of 400-plus seats.

The BJP leadership plans to meet on March 6 to select more candidates. Party insiders said the second list could include many new faces.

Gambhir exit

Earlier in the day, two BJP Lok Sabha members — cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who represented East Delhi, and Jayant Sinha, MP for Hazaribagh in Jharkhand — announced they had written to the party leadership asking to be relieved of their electoral duties.

While the list had a new candidate for Hazaribagh, Gambhir’s replacement has not been announced.

Jayant is the son of BJP stalwart turned rebel Yashwant Sinha and was junior finance minister in the first Modi government.

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