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BJP leaders disagree on Punjab list

Party also concerned about dissension in Uttarakhand and erosion of support in Goa, reports Archis Mohan.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leadership finds itself faced with dissension in the ranks and lack of consensus at the top over ticket distribution for Assembly polls in Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand.

On Wednesday, the BJP central election committee sat to decide tickets for Goa and Punjab. Party leaders could agree on announcing candidates for 29 of the 40 seats in Goa, and 17 of the 23 seats it will contest in Punjab.

At the meeting, a senior leader, who has handled Punjab for the party for nearly two decades, disagreed with other leaders on suggestions that half dozen sitting candidates be dropped.

The leader argued that candidates who had won in 2012, at a time when the BJP’s seat tally had reduced, shouldn’t be punished.

Some others argued that new candidates should be fielded to beat the anti-incumbency against the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government.

Sunday evening’s meeting was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and some others. The meeting couldn’t reach any consensus on the issue.

The party is yet to announce candidates on as many as six of its sitting seats. Four of these legislators are ministers in the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP coalition government, and two are older than 75.

These ministers have in recent past been critical of the Parkash Singh Badal-led government. Some sitting legislators slated to be dropped have recommended names of family members as their replacements.

In the list announced on Thursday, the party retained its sitting candidates on five seats.

As part of its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP contests 23, mostly urban, of the 117 seats in the Punjab assembly.

Of these 23, it had won 19 in 2007. Its tally declined to 12 seats in 2012.

In the Amritsar (East) seat, a new candidate, Rajesh Hani, will replace Navjot Kaur Sidhu, former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife. The couple have quit the BJP.

Sidhu on Thursday met Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. Sidhu’s wife has already joined the Congress and could be the candidate from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, while Sidhu could represent the Congress on his wife’s erstwhile assembly seat.

In Goa, the ruling BJP’s list of 29 candidates includes 18 of its sitting legislators. The BJP had won 21 seats in 2012.

The list excludes names of state Agriculture Minister Ramesh Tawadkar and assembly Speaker Anant Shet. Current Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar retains his candidature from Mandrem.

Parsekar is keen that the party announce him as their chief ministerial candidate. However, on Thursday in Panaji, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the next chief minister could either be from the elected legislators or a central party leader.

Manohar Parrikar and Shripad Naik, currently ministers in the Union Cabinet, are both former chief ministers of Goa.

The party is concerned about the potential loss of support from the Christian community, and other parties eating into its Hindu support base.

The battle in Goa will be multi-cornered. Rebel Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Subhash Velingkar has forged a three-party alliance, which includes his newly floated Goa Suraksha Manch, the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party and the Shiv Sena.

The MGP recently severed ties with the BJP.

The Aam Aadmi Party has announced its candidates from 36 seats. The Congress, which also announced its list on Thursday, is in alliance talks with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Goa Forward Party.

In Uttarakhand, the BJP leadership is beset with the challenge of accommodating 10 Congress rebels, led by Vijay Bahuguna, which could spark a revolt within its ranks.

Goa and Punjab go to the polls on February 4, Uttarakhand on February 15.

The committee will sit on January 15 and 17 to decide its candidates for the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly and for the first two phases of the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

IMAGE: Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal presents a memento of the Golden Temple to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Source: Rediff