The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it seems, is in a quandary over repeating six “big faces” – four ministers and a chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) in the outgoing Punjab government and a former minister – as candidates from the respective assembly seats they had won in the 2012 polls.
Sources say Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present at the meeting convened by BJP national president Amit Shah on Wednesday evening, insisted on bringing in new faces in place of the “big faces”, to fight out anti-incumbency of ten years of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.
The BJP national leadership has asked state party president Vijay Sampla to send a fresh panel for these six constituencies, it has been learnt.
Other than the candidature of four ministers – Anil Joshi from Amritsar North, Bhagat Chunni Lal (Jalandhar West), Surjeet Jyani (Fazilka) and Madan Mohan Mittal (Anandpur Sahib) –the nomination of CPS Som Parkash (Phagwara) and former minister Manoranjan Kalia (Jalandhar Central) was held back on Wednesday evening.
The BJP will contest 23 seats while its ally SAD has kept 94 out of the total 117 seats in its kitty.
The saffron party is also keeping in mind that the last date of filling nominations is January 18, so the process has to be expedited.
Interestingly, the party high command has allowed seven candidates who lost the 2012 polls to contest from the same constituencies again this time.
The BJP top brass and the Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh (RSS) are of the view that public perception of SAD is at the lowest ebb, which can impact the saffron party as well. They feel that by bringing in new candidates, the BJP could do a damage control.
Madan Mohan Mittal, who is above 75, has rushed to Delhi to urge the party high command to field his son Arvind Mittal from Anandpur Sahib, in case he is denied the party ticket due to the age factor.
“I have already started campaigning in Anandpur Sahib. My health is fine and I am ready to contest again, but if my party wants to impose the age bar on me as suggested by Modi ji, the party can make my son a candidate, instead,” Mittal told HT. He denied any anti-incumbency against him.
Similarly, Kalia has also started campaigning in the Jalandhar Central constituency.
However, both the leaders said they would take the party’s decision as final.