The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday announced its third list of candidates for Lok Sabha elections, fielding Ram Kripal Yadav, who recently joined the party after quitting RJD, from Patliputra against Lalu Prasad's daughter Misa.
Former RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav seeks blessings from BJP President Rajnath Singh after joining the BJP at BJP HQ in New Delhi (Arvind Yadav/HT)
Despite opposition by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, B Sriramulu would be contesting from Bellary in Karnataka on the saffron party ticket. The party, however, decided against merger with his BSR Congress, which is seen as a front of the infamous Reddy brothers.
Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, former deputy leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha SS Ahluwalia, former home secretary RK Singh and BS Yeddyurappa's close aide Shobha Karandlaje are among prominent faces who figured in BJP's fourth list of 97 candidates for the Lok Sabha poll.
They are from Assam (6), Jharkhand (13), West Bengal (7), Bihar (25), Madhya Pradesh (24), Kerala (14), Maharashtra (2), Karnataka (5) and Lakshadweep (1) Sushma has been repeated from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh while Ahluwalia has been fielded from Darjeeling. RK Singh is the candidate from Arrah (in Bihar) and Karandlaje from Udupi-Chikmagalur. He would be contesting against Congress' Jaiprakash Hedge, a former state government minister.
Read: Gadkari, Shanta Kumar in BJP's first list for LS polls
Former civil aviation ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain have been repeated from Saran and Bhagalpur seats in Bihar, while late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan's daughter Poonam Mahajan will take on Priya Dutt of Congress in Mumbai North-Central seat.
No decision has been taken on Patna Saheb seat, represented by actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha. His name is also being considered for Delhi.
Another turncoat, Sushil Kumar Singh, has been fielded from Aurangabad seat in Bihar. Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha has made way for his son Jayant in Hazaribag (Jharkhand) while former director general of police VD Ram has been fielded from Palamau in the tribal state. Most of the sitting MPs have got ticket.
Read: Key constituencies across the country
Earlier, top BJP bigwigs went into a huddle to ease the crisis over prime minister candidate Narendra Modi's contest from Uttar Pradesh but decided to delay a final announcement till March 15.
The BJP parliamentary board that met Thursday discussed Modi's candidature, apparently reaching an understanding of sorts that Murli Manohar Joshi would be fielded from Kanpur in place of Varanasi. Party chief Rajnath Singh would contest from Lucknow instead of Ghaziabad.
Those who attended the board's meeting included, besides Modi and Joshi, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitely and Rajnath Singh who presided over it.
These leaders decided to allow time to "persuade" other contenders like Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra who wanted to contest from Lucknow and Kanpur respectively to accept "alternative offers" for them.
Read: BJP announces second list for Lok Sabha polls
By March 15, the top BJP leaders expected to overcome the lack of consensus on names of candidates for more than two dozen Lok Sabha seats.
The bone of contention included seats including the prestigious Allahabad constituency where the tussle was between former UP assembly speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi and expelled BSP leader Nand Gopal Gupta "Nandi", who was a cabinet minister in Mayawati government.
In case of some key constituencies, the behind the scene parlays involving top BJP and RSS leaders could not iron out the differences. Wary of the consequences, the BJP eventually decided to hold back the announcement of the names of candidates for UP.
"The back channel negotiations will continue and we expect to sort out every issue before the election committee meeting on March 15. The list of candidates for UP can be expected then," a senior BJP leader told HT.
Read: In first Lok Sabha list, AAP takes on Congress big guns, mum on Modi opponent
BJP general secretary in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Amit Shah is understood to have met top RSS leader at Sangh's Jhandewalan office here on Wednesday night to impress upon them about the necessity to field Modi from Varanasi. Shah argued the BJP's electoral performance would be hit if Modi did not contest from Varanasi.
Shah is understood to have requested RSS leaders to convince Joshi to make way for Modi. Joshi's name is being proposed for Kanpur, a seat claimed by veteran Kalraj Mishra.
Around the same time last evening, Joshi drove to Sushma Swaraj's residence. Joshi apparently expressed displeasure over the manner in which he was being forced out of Varanasi.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley gathered at former president Nitin Gadkari's residence to discuss the overall situation.
In Ahmedabad, Rupani said, “The state BJP election committee met over the last four days and finalised that Modi would contest from one seat in Gujarat.” He added that a decision on the seat would be taken by the national parliamentary board.
While Ahmedabad East is the hot pick, since Modi’s assembly constituency of Maninagar is part of it, Rupani said, “There is a clamour to invite Narendra Modi to fight elections from four cities — Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara and Surat.”
With its third list — comprising names from Assam (6), Jharkhand (13), West Bengal (7), Bihar (25), MP (24), Kerala (14), Maharashtra (2), Karnataka (5) and Lakshadweep (1) — the BJP has declared 204 candidates so far.
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(With inputs from PTI)