BJP on lookout for fresh faces; winnability to be yardstick
The BJP is on the lookout for fresh, young faces for the coming Assembly polls. Also, the party does not intend to depend too much on film stars at the cost of its own star campaigners like Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee or Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.
The BJP says it has set five important criteria for selection of candidates for the coming Assembly polls: their work in constituency; rapport with voters; loyalty to party; their image and winnability.
The party is also taking into account the performance in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls — Assembly segment-wise. The BJP had led in 132 of the 200 Assembly segments in Rajasthan, in 151 out of 230 segments in Madhya Pradesh, in 59 out of 90 constituencies in Chhattisgarh and in 51 Assembly seats out of 70 in Delhi.
The BJP is not too bothered by complaints of kith and kin of some leaders getting advantage in the selection process.
But what is most important, according to senior BJP leaders, is that whoever is selected should be able to take advantage of the "anti-incumbency" of the Congress legislators in most constituencies, if not of the state government concerned.
In Delhi, for instance, BJP managers have identified 22 such constituencies where the selection of candidates will be the "deciding factor".
As BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi put its, the BJP has only 14 "sitting" MLAs as against 54 MLAs of the Congress. "Obviously, we have to put up those candidates who can use the anti-incumbency image faced by the Congress MLAs."
Naqvi, who is in charge of Delhi, denied reports that the BJP had plans to involve mega film stars like Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan.
"We do not think that association of a successful film star will boost our campaign, which will be mainly led by our star leaders. Those film stars like Union Ministers Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna, who are with the BJP, will be involved in hectic campaigning for the party."
Naqvi said that the BJP's campaign would peak between November 18 to 28. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu would lead it. Senior party leaders, including Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan will also campaign. External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha too will be involved in a limited scale because of preoccupation with official work.
The BJP is also doubtful of cricket icons joining the campaign, as they are busy with the triangular series and the heavy workout schedules.
The party's Central Election Committee will meet here from November 3 to 5 to finalise the list of candidates for the coming Assembly elections in the five states.
The BJP has sought to downplay VHP's decision to keep away from electioneering in the poll-bound five states saying that in the past too, it had not campaigned from the party's platform.