New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to deny tickets to at least 90 of the 268 Lok Sabha members that it presently has, top party sources told The Sunday Guardian. “At least 30% of the sitting MPs will not be repeated. The number can be more than that but not less,” said a senior Union Minister.
Another top party leader too confirmed that “Those MPs who are not going to win are not going to get a ticket, even if that person is a Union Minister or a senior party leader.”
In the 2014 elections, of the 282 MPs who won on BJP tickets, more than 160 were first-timers who had emerged victorious riding the Narendra Modi wave and the anti-UPA sentiments that were sweeping the country.
According to sources, contrary to speculation in the media, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is unlikely to contest from the Vidisha seat which will be vacated by sitting MP and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Sources close to Chouhan, who is an MLA from Budhni segment in Vidisha Lok Sabha seat, said that he has expressed his reluctance to move to Delhi and wants to focus on his state where Congress is running a government with a wafer-thin majority.
The BJP is likely to replace at least five of its 26 sitting MPs in Madhya Pradesh. Sources said that the party is looking for new faces in Bhopal, Jabalpur—which is presently held by BJP state president Rakesh Singh—and Sidhi. Speculation is also rife that senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh might contest from Bhopal this time as the party does not have a strong leader who can win the seat.
In Chhattisgarh, where the BJP won 10 of the 11 LS seats in 2014, five MPs are likely to be replaced, including the Raipur MP, Ramesh Bais, party sources indicated.
Similarly, with BJP being forced to vacate five of the 22 Lok Sabha seats it won in 2014 in Bihar, Union Minister Giriraj Singh, who represents Nawada, may not get a ticket this time. BJP ally Lok Janshakati Party, according to party president Ram Vilas Paswan himself, will field its own candidate from Nawada. Sources in the state BJP said that angry with this declaration, Giriraj Singh did not attend the party rally in Patna last week addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Bihar unit of the BJP has also communicated to the central leadership that the party’s national vice-president, Prabhat Jha should be fielded from either Madhubani or Sitamarhi, both in North Bihar. Jha, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, has earned a lot of goodwill in this region after he succeeded in starting the construction of a massive temple complex at Punaura Dham in Sitamarhi, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram’s wife Sita. Both these seats have a sizable number of Maithili Brahmins, a community that Jha belongs to.
The Madhubani seat is presently held by BJP MP Hukmdev Narayan, who has already announced that he will not contest the elections this time. Sitamarhi’s present MP, Ram Kumar Sharma belongs to Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), which was earlier a part of the BJP-led NDA but has now joined hands with the rival UPA.
Party sources say that the BJP’s graph has increased exponentially after presentation of the budget and the Balakot airstrike, especially in the rural areas of the Hindi belt. “Voters are happy with us. The situation has changed a lot in the last one-two months and we are confident of crossing the number that we got in 2014. In 2014, the Modi wave was visible but this time it is an undercurrent,” sources told this correspondent.