BJP names Yogi from home turf; focuses on OBCs in Uttar Pradesh’s first list
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday dropped 20 sitting lawmakers as it announced the list of 105 candidates for the first two phases of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on February 10 and 14.
The announcement came on a day when the party also fielded chief minister Yogi Adityanath and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya for the assembly polls.
Adityanath, a five-term former Lok Sabha MP, will contest his first assembly election from the Gorakhpur urban seat, which will go to the polls in the sixth phase on March 3. Gorakhpur is the political and spiritual home of Adityanath, who is also the chief priest of the Gorakhnath temple.
Sirathu, the birthplace of Maurya and also from where he has been fielded, goes to polls in the fifth phase on February 27.
The names on the first list include candidates from 44 other backward classes (OBCs), 19 Dalits, 10 women and a few turncoats. The announcement has come at a time when the BJP is facing a mini exodus of sorts.
Uttar Pradesh goes to assembly polls in seven phases between February 10 and March 7. The names of Adityanath and Maurya are in addition to the 105 for the first two rounds.
Soon after the announcement, both Adityanath and Maurya thanked the party leadership.
“Hearty thanks to respected Prime Minister @narendramodi, Honorable National President @JPNadda and Parliamentary Board for making me the candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party from Gorakhpur (urban) in the upcoming assembly elections,” Adityanath tweeted in Hindi.
Maurya also took to Twitter to express his gratitude. “I express my thanks to the prime minister (Narendra Modi), BJP national president (J P Nadda) and the entire national leadership for making me the party candidate from my place of birth -- 251 Sirathu assembly constituency in Kaushambi district,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Former Uttarakhand governor Baby Rani Maurya, a Jatav Dalit who had been campaigning across the state, is among the most prominent names from the Dalit community on the list for the first two phases of the elections. Baby Rani Maurya has been fielded from Agra Rural, where polling will take place in the first phase on February 10.
Mriganka Singh has found a place in the list from Kairana, where her father, late Hukum Singh, had flagged the “Hindu palayan (exodus)” issue, which became a poll plank for the BJP in the 2017 assembly polls. The issue is still being mentioned by BJP leaders during the current poll campaign.
Of the 113 seats in the first two phases of the seven-phase UP polls, the BJP has declared candidates for 105 seats, amid the buzz that declaration in eight seats has been left out for some leaders from other parties with which it is holding last minute consultations. The party’s two pre-poll allies, Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Nishad Party, both primarily OBC parties of eastern Uttar Pradesh, are also eyeing some of these eight seats in the west.
The list, as expected, is heavy on OBC candidates, not just due to the numerical dominance of the communities but also because majority of the party leaders, including state ministers and MLAs who recently quit the party, were all OBCs.
For the Gorakhpur Urban seat, Adityanath replaces popular sitting MLA Radha Mohandas Agarwal, who only two days ago launched his own YouTube channel to talk about his achievements as a lawmaker.
On Saturday, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav declared that his party won’t take any more leaders from other parties. BJP rebels, however, indicated the SP could make an exception for Agarwal.
Keshav Prasad Maurya has been named for the Sirathu assembly seat that he had won despite the SP wave in 2012 elections and where he had as the state’s PWD minister carried out major infrastructure development.
Maurya quit as MLA after winning the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat for the first time on the BJP ticket in the 2014 polls. Both Adityanath and Maurya are currently members of the upper house of state legislature and are contesting as part of the party’s plan to get top leaders to contest to influence party’s prospects in adjoining seats.
Prominent ministers in the state cabinet who will contest the elections include Suresh Khanna, an eight-term MLA from Shahjahanpur, power minister Shrikant Sharma (Mathura), sugarcane development minister Suresh Rana (Thana Bhawan), Atul Garg (Ghaziabad), and Kapil Dev Agarwal (Muzaffarnagar).
Some of the sitting BJP MLAs who failed to make the cut in the list include Etmadpur legislator Rampratap Singh Chauhan, who has been replaced by turncoat Dharam Pal Singh, who joined the BJP a few days ago in Delhi. Another turncoat, Naresh Saini, who joined the BJP from the Congress, was named the candidate from Behat assembly constituency.
Hari Shankar Mahaur (Hathras), Rajesh Mishra (Bithri Chainpur) – the two BJP MLAs who had denied the buzz about joining the SP – failed to find their names on the list. In Naugawan Sadat assembly constituency, the BJP replaced its sitting lawmaker Sangeeta Chauhan with Devendra Nagpal, who was previously with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, an ally of the SP.
Sangeeta, a retired senior bank official, is the widow of former cricketer and UP minister Chetan Chauhan. She had won the by-polls after Chauhan’s demise in 2020. Defence minister Rajnath Singh’s son and sitting MLA Pankaj Singh has been retained from Noida, so is Sandeep Singh, UP minister and grandson of late BJP stalwart Kalyan Singh, who has been retained from Atrauli.
Jagpal Singh, a scheduled caste candidate, has been named for the Saharanpur assembly seat. Though this is a general seat, but by naming a SC candidate, the party has, along with OBCs, also tried to woo Dalit voters in the most populous state.
At Bihthri Chainpur seat in Bareilly, the BJP replaced its sitting lawmaker with Raghvendra Sharma, a prominent orthopaedic surgeon. Ramvir Upadhyaya, a prominent Brahmin face in Hathras and former minister in the Mayawati government, joined the BJP in Agra. In Sikandarabad, the BJP has given the ticket to young party hand Laxmiraj Singh.
The Congress, meanwhile, labelled the BJP as “anti-women” soon after the ruling party announced its first list.
“The BJP has always involved itself in anti-women politics. It can never serve the interests of women and this is clearly evident from its first list of candidates,” Congress legislative party leader Aradhana Misra said in a statement. “The BJP today (Saturday) released a list of 107 candidates, in which only 10% women have got a place. And these women belong to the influential class,” Misra said, adding that her party has, however, fulfilled its pledge to give 40% seats to women in its very first list.