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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

Why BJP fielded Narendra Modi from Varanasi

Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 15, 2014
First Published: 23:23 IST(15/3/2014) | Last Updated: 23:48 IST(24/3/2014)

The BJP's decision to field its poster boy, Narendra Modi, from Varanasi is part of the party’s strategy to create an impact in the Poorvanchal that has more than 24 seats. The Poorvanchal region includes east Uttar Pradesh and some districts of west Bihar.

The move has its genesis in the result of a field study that Modi's trusted aide Amit Shah conducted while touring UP.

After a whirlwind tour of the state, Shah shared with Modi his view that the BJP's prospects in west UP were bright and that the party was also picking up seats in the Awadh and Ruhelkhand- six districts around Bareilly - that has been a traditional stronghold of the BJP. Bareilly is in northeastern UP.

But, somehow, the response from Poorvanchal - from Gorakhpur in the north to Varanasi in the south - was not matching the party's expectations. Shah then came up with the idea of fielding Modi from Varanasi. The message created an impact as soon as it was out that Modi would contest from Varanasi. “Our calculation was right,” a BJP leader said.

Read: Modi wrests Varanasi from MM Joshi, Rajnath to fight from Lucknow

Though, sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi was initially reluctant to make way for Modi, he changed his mind when senior BJP leaders reasoned with him. Joshi was upset that before formally speaking to him on the issue, Shah and others "leaked' it to the media. 

Party seniors told Joshi that he should not be seen as blocking Modi in Varanasi and should contest from a 'safer' seat like Kanpur.

“Modi's presence in Varanasi will also boost the prospects of BJP candidates in bordering seats of Bihar like Arrah, Buxar, Sasaram and others," another party leader said.

The BJP's first list had quite a large number of OBC candidates and Shah planned to have at least 36 candidates from communities like Jats, Lodhs, Kurmis, Kushwahas, Mauryas and Yadavs, party sources said.

The party was on the expected line in taking the final call on party chief Rajnath Singh’s fate. Singh wanted to shift to Lucknow to 'inherit' former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee's legacy as MP of Lucknow. Singh was also apprehensive of contesting from the NCR town of Ghaziabad after the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party there.

Sitting MP Lalji Tandon, who wasn't ready to leave the seat, was assured about a 'suitable compensation' at a later stage.

Full coverage: The rise of Narendra Modi


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