The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday denied a ticket to former defence minister Jaswant Singh from Barmer in Rajasthan — a move that could trigger a fresh bout of bickering in the saffron camp over the selection of candidates for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Chief minister Vasundhara Raje's pick, Col Sona Ram, was fielded from the seat instead of Singh. Ram, who joined the BJP recently, is a 'tainted' former Congress leader and a relative of ex-Delhi parliamentarian Sajjan Kumar. He wields a considerable influence over the local Jat community.
Singh has already indicated that he may quit the BJP and contest as an independent candidate in case the BJP denied him a ticket from Barmer.
"Ram is a Jat, the community which accounts for nearly 20% of Barmer's population. Ram has been a vocal opponent of Ashok Gehlot, Raje's main rival in Rajasthan. She ruled in favour of Ram to consolidate her base in the state," a BJP leader said.
The Congress has fielded current MP Harish Choudhary, also a Jat leader.
Singh is a sitting MP from Darjeeling in West Bengal and he had recently expressed his desire to shift to his home state. The BJP's refusal to give in to Singh's demand comes a day after party patriarch LK Advani accepted to contest from Gandhinagar after a 24-hour sulk.
Some in the BJP reportedly feared that Singh coming back to Rajasthan might create another power centre in the desert state, where the BJP is believed to be comfortably placed after an emphatic victory in the December 2013 assembly elections.
Advani was in favour of fielding Jaswant from Rajasthan, and had apparently spoken to Raje to accommodate him in the list of candidates.
Meanwhile, the BJP fielded singer Bappi Lahiri from Serampore in West Bengal and B Sriramulu from Bellary in Karnataka.
Senior leader Sushma Swaraj had opposed Sriramulu's entry into the BJP and was also averse to fielding him in the Lok Sabha elections for his links with the controversial mining barons of Bellary — the Reddy brothers.
But the party decided to ignore his reservation as Sriramulu is considered to be a candidate who can win in Bellary.
The BJP also fielded journalist Ashwani Kumar Chopra 'Minna' from Karnal in Haryana, and its Tamil Nadu unit chief, Pon Radhakrishnan, from Kannyakumari.