Which seat the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi will retain – Varanasi or Vadodara – if he wins both? The question is set to gain momentum once Modi files his nomination papers for Varanasi on Thursday.
The answer, party leaders say, is Varanasi. For, Modi needs to send out a strong signal that he has adopted one of the country’s oldest cities for good and is committed to its development.
The reason: In Varanasi, the opposition is already seeking to corner Modi on contesting from two seats, accusing him of lack of commitment towards the electorate.
Modi picked Varanasi after the party got sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi to shift to Kanpur because the leaders believed it would give the BJP a big boost in UP.
Insiders say it is politically prudent for Modi to retain Varanasi as the message will have a long-term implication for UP where the next round of assembly polls will be due in 2017, when the saffron party is looking for a big dividend.
Also, it is easy for the BJP to win Vadodara again if Modi vacates it. On April 9, Modi filed his papers for Vadodara, while the Congress fielded AICC general secretary Madusudhan Mistry.
BJP officials say Modi had to contest from both seats because of pressure from the Gujarat BJP, which did not want the signal to go out that he was taking the support of Gujarat people for granted. After all, Modi always stood for Gujarat’s “asmita (pride)”.
But the debate on whether politicians should contest from two seats will continue. “If Indira Gandhi could run from Medak and Rae Bareli in 1980, Sonia Gandhi from Bellary and Amethi in 1999 and Lalu Prasad can run from Chapra and Madhepura in 2004 and Saran and Pataliputra in 2009, why not Modi?” is the counter response from BJP leaders.
Section 33 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 allows people to contest from more than one seat, while section 70 prevents them from holding on to more than one seat. The Election Commission, however, wanted to bring it down to one seat in 2004.
On March 14, the Supreme Court sought response from the Centre and the EC on a PIL demanding that nomination papers submitted by one individual for more than one constituency be declared “null and void”.
It also demanded that candidates be asked not to file papers and contest from more than one seats for the same legislative body.