Lok Sabha elections 2019: Half the BJP’s MPs in Uttar Pradesh may face the axe or be assigned new seats
About half of the BJP’s 68 sitting Lok Sabha MPs in Uttar Pradesh may get the axe or be assigned new seats to either beat incumbency or suit the party’s plans. The party had won 71 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, but went on to lose three of them in by-polls.
Referring to the plan to dump or change candidates, a BJP leader described it as “Gujarat model”.
“As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi ji frequently changed candidates who underperformed or against whom the survey reports suggested high anti-incumbency risk. We expect similar pruning in UP too,” a party leader said.
While several claimants, including those with “fat bio-datas and even fatter purses” are turning up at the party office, only ‘serious’ contenders are being considered, people familiar with the matter said.
“If the aerial strike India carried against terror camps in Pakistan raised the value of a BJP ticket even further, the ‘shoe strike’ featuring BJP leaders has acted as a dampener of sorts” a BJP leader said.
Since the ‘shoe scandal’ featuring BJP’s Sant Kabir Nagar MP Sharad Tripathi, the number of claimants on the seat is expected to increase. Tripathi has already met UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey to offer his explanation.
“We have received several enquiries from people wanting to offer themselves as a candidate from the east UP seat,” a local BJP leader from Sant Kabir Nagar said.
A multi-layered feedback mechanism, surveys and ground report from the cadre is among the standard party approach for screening candidates, BJP leaders said.
“Though the value of a BJP ticket isn’t as high as during the 2014 LS polls or even during the 2017 UP polls, there is no denying that it’s hot property still. The SP-BSP-RLD alliance has caste combination on its side. The Congress is also in talks with the alliance, which means the winnability factor of a BJP ticket might be a touch dicey on several seats but the BJP is also putting its alliance in place which could then set it up nicely,” said Athar Hussain of the Centre for Objective Research and Development.
“I don’t know what the grapevine is saying, but a BJP ticket has the same value that a Shahrukh Khan or Akshay Kumar movie guarantees — a sure success. Modi’s name still spells magic and the claimants know this,” a BJP leader said.
The concentration of applicants is higher in seats like Bahraich, from where the party’s sitting MP has defected to the Congress. It’s also expectedly high in seats where the party has MPs, who have crossed the 75 year mark barrier.
In UP, veterans Murli Manohar Joshi, 85, the MP from Kanpur, and Kalraj Mishra, 77, the MP from Deoria, are among such leaders on whom the BJP parliamentary board is expected to decide.
“This time, we are expecting mostly serious claimants. More than anything else, the party is mulling fielding even prominent state legislators and ministers of the Yogi Adityanath government in the state. Some of them have shown willingness to contest. The party leadership may ask some others to contest,” a party leader said.
Nearly half-a-dozen ministers of Yogi Adityanath are tipped to be in the running for a party’s LS ticket, which includes some first time ministers too.
Apart from seats where sitting MPs don’t have age on their side and there is the presence of rebel MPs, there are many who are hoping to ride their luck through caste combinations.
For instance, in Gorakhpur the party leadership is now looking to consider a candidate from Nishad (riverine) community. The BJP faced a stunning loss in the by-poll in March 2018 after Yogi Adityanath who was MP since 1998, quit the seat on being elected as chief minister.
On Thursday, the BJP inducted Rajmati Nishad and her son Amrendra. BJP sources said the possibility of one of them – mostly Amrendra - being fielded from Gorakhpur is high.
Nishads are capable of swinging elections in Gorakhpur. This is the reason why Samajwadi Party’s strategy to team up with the BSP and field a Nishad candidate against the BJP in by-polls was successful, explains Dipankar Nishad, a school teacher from Maharajganj. Amrendra Nishad represented Pipraich assembly seat while his mother Rajmati stood second in Gorakhpur after Yogi in the 2014 LS elections.