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Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 27, 2014
The BJP on Thursday announced its first list of 54 candidates for Lok Sabha seats in eight states with former party president Nitin Gadkari, magician  PC Sorcar, former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar and youth wing chief Anurag Thakur among the prominent names. The list for Maharashtra (17), West Bengal (17), Odisha (6), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Himachal (3), Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur (2 each) has four candidates from the minority community and two women.

Former army chief Gen VK Singh is also joining the BJP on Saturday and is expected to be fielded from Rajasthan or Haryana. Singh was offered Rae Bareli, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, but he declined.

In Maharashtra, the big names are Gadkari (Nagpur), Gopinath Munde (Beed), Kirit Somaiya (Mumbai North-East) and cancer surgeon Dr Subhash Bhamre (Dhule).

Himachal has two prominent faces in BCCI vice-president and MP Anurag Thakur (Hamirpur) and Shanta Kumar (Kangra), who will take on his protege Rajan Sushant of the Aam Aadmi Party.

In Bengal, Sorkar is contesting from the Trinamool stronghold of Barasat, former Sashastra Seema Bal DIG Satyalal Sarkar from Jalpaiguri (SC) and actor George Baker from Howrah. BJP has fielded Muslims candidates in Anantnag and Baramulla.