The BJP is expected to announce on Saturday whether their PM candidate Narendra Modi will contest from Uttar Pradesh — besides deciding on names for more than two dozen Lok Sabha seats.
However in an earlier meeting, the BJP parliamentary board apparently had reached an understanding that the sitting Varanasi MP, Murli Manohar Joshi, would be fielded from Kanpur and 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.
The leaders decided to have more time to “persuade” the other contenders, such as Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra — who wanted to contest from Lucknow and Kanpur, respectively — to accept the “alternative offers” made to them.
The disagreement within the party related to seats, including the 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 the Mayawati government.
The party’s dilemma is accommodating turncoats who have either joined the party or will do so soon, as the party workers have strongly opposed the idea of giving preference to ‘outsiders’ while ignoring the ‘loyalists’.
Read: Modi buzz getting louder as party men arrive in Varanasi
The BJP’s election committee later went through the list from other states, including Karnataka. With Sushma Swaraj opposing the merger of the BRS Congress — seen as a front for the Bellary brothers — with the BJP, the leaders wanted its leader B Sriramalu to contest as a BJP nominee.
“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.
Amit Shah, BJP general secretary in charge of UP, is understood to have met RSS leaders here on Wednesday night to convince them about the need to field Modi from Varanasi.
Arguing that BJP’s electoral performance would be hit if Modi did not contest from the holy city, Shah reportedly requested RSS leaders to convince Joshi to make way for Modi.
Around the same time last evening, Joshi drove to Sushma Swaraj’s residence and expressed displeasure over the manner in which he was being forced out of Varanasi.