Bollywood actor Nana Patekar has turned down a BJP offer to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Mumbai North Central constituency, considered a fortress of Priya Dutt, sister of another Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt.
Priya Dutt won this seat in 2009 defeating BJP’s Mahesh Jethmalani with a margin of about 1.75 lakh votes.
Nana Patekar was one of the stars approached by the BJP but he was unwilling to take on in an electoral battle the daughter of legendary Sunil Dutt and Nargis.
“We are negotiating with more people in Bollywood. Patekar was our first choice against Priya since he is a popular Marathi artist and he could have limited the possible damage by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of Raj Thackeray, who has considerable base in Mumbai,” a senior BJP functionary involved in negotiations told HT.
Party leaders do not rule out the possibility of fielding Patekar from any other constituency of Mumbai if he “changes his mind” later.
The Mumbai unit of the BJP is expected to meet next month to consider the names of probable candidate for three out of the six Lok Sabha seats – North East, North and North Central – that it plans to contests in Mumbai.
BJP had lost Mumbai-North and Mumbai-North-East to the Congress by a margin of meagre 5,779 and 2,933 votes in the previous election.
“About 30 per cent of Mumbai’s population consists of Gujaratis and we hope that with Narendra Modi as our PM candidate they will make the difference for us,” the BJP leader claimed.
Of the total 48 LS constituencies in Maharashtra, BJP will put up candidates in 24 seats leaving the rest for ally Shiv Sena.
The BJP, which had originally planned to contest in 26 seats, has also decided to leave one seat each for the Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana of Raju Shetty and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha of Mahadev Jankar.
“We expect that after getting a Rajya Sabha nomination, Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India would not ask for a LS seat,” the BJP leader said.
The process for candidate selection, except for Mumbai, has already started with the BJP’s Maharashtra unit recommending to the party’s central election committee single names of candidates for 10 Lok Sabha constituencies.
This includes seven out of nine sitting MPs, former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur and local MLA Nanbahau Patole from Bhandara Gondiya.