New Delhi: The BJP has nominated Republic TV investor Rajeev Chandrasekhar for next week's Rajya Sabha elections and a little-known, backward-caste leader from Uttar Pradesh among a list of 18 that suggested the choices were driven by upcoming state polls and allegations of upper-caste bias.
The party also rewarded Narayan Rane, a former Congress stalwart, with a ticket from Maharashtra where ally Shiv Sena has been a source of trouble.
Fifty-nine seats are up for grabs in the elections scheduled on March 23 and the BJP is hoping for an impressive show to strengthen its position in Parliament's upper House.
Chandrasekhar, earlier an independent Rajya Sabha MP, has been nominated from Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due this summer. Sources said he beat a local promoter of a prominent Kannada daily to the list released on Sunday.
Chandresekhar, who wears patriotism on his sleeves as well as on his Twitter page, had last week run into a trenchant repartee when he had tweeted on the statue removal in Tripura: "Me too want to know! Wht was a statue of Lenin doing in India???"
"Nothing. It was just standing there, immobile. It wasn't lynching anyone. It wasn't running a hate news channel trying to foment riots and win elections. It wasn't even asking stupid questions," former editor Tony Joseph responded.
PTI reported that Chandrasekhar would join the BJP on Monday. "I will work with with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to make sure that we have a corruption-free government in Karnataka as well," the news agency quoted Chandresekhar as saying.
Familiar faces on primetime television have been chosen, and not by the BJP alone. If the BJP has rewarded spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, the Congress has picked journalist Kumar Ketkar.
Rane, a former Maharashtra chief minister, had quit the Congress last year and is believed to have a strong following in the Konkan region.
The BJP has fielded Kirodi Lal Meena in Rajasthan, where the party suffered humiliating by-election defeats ahead of Assembly elections later this year. The veteran legislator had quit the BJP in 2008 but rejoined it on Sunday. The tribal Meenas have a strong presence in parts of the state.
The surprise pick from Uttar Pradesh was, however, Sakal Deep Rajbhar. Party leaders said the little-known leader from a most-backward caste had been nominated to send the message that the BJP cared for deprived sections.
The BJP has been facing allegations of upper-caste bias in the heartland state where the chief minister and the state party chief are both from privileged castes.
A Dalit woman, Kanta Kardam, has been fielded too.
The party has also nominated a Brahmin, Ashok Vajpayee, a founding member of the Samajwadi Party.
In Kerala, the BJP has fielded V. Muraleedharan.
In Bihar, RJD state unit president Ram Chandra Purbey said the party would send its spokesperson Manoj Jha and Katihar Medical College owner Ahmad Ashfaque Karim to the Rajya Sabha.
"RJD chief Lalu Prasadji has decided the candidates," Purbey said, flanked by close Lalu aide Bhola Yadav.
Party sources said that by giving a ticket to an upper-caste person (Jha), the RJD was trying to reach out beyond the Muslim-Yadav combination. The party had not fielded anyone from the upper castes in the 2015 Assembly elections.
"As Manoj belongs to the camp of (Lalu Prasad's son) Tejashwi Yadav, the ticket proves that the young leader wants to do progressive politics. People associate the RJD with the Muslim-Yadav combination but Tejashwi is changing the discourse," a senior party leader said.
Additional reporting by our Bihar bureau