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Modi, Amit Shah in first BJP list of 195 candidates for LS polls

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will contest from Varanasi for a third time as the BJP released its first list of 195 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, naming 34 Union ministers, including heavyweights like Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh from their current Gandhinagar and Lucknow seats respectively. Two former chief ministers — Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Biplab Kumar Deb — also figure in the list which did not have many surprise omissions, as were in party’s lists for previous polls, except in Delhi where four sitting MPs including Union minister Meenakshi Lekhi, former Union minister Harsh Vardhan and Ramesh Bidhuri have been dropped.
Bidhuri was recently in the news for his controversial comments against opposition MP Danish Ali. The BJP has also dropped Sadhvi Pragya Thakur from Bhopal and Union minister John Barla from Alipurduar. Union ministers Meenakshi Lekhi and Rameswar Teli have also been dropped from their constituencies.
The list of candidates for the 195 constituencies included nearly 155 seats the party had won in the 2019 polls. In this list, The party has dropped over 20 per cent of its MPs.
Seven ministers, who were members of Rajya Sabha and were expected to fight the Lok Sabha elections, have been fielded in the polls.
Jyotiraditya Scindia will contest from Guna (Madhya Pradesh), Sarbananda Sonowal from Dibrugarh (Assam), Bhupender Yadav from Alwar (Rajasthan), Rajeev Chandrashekhar from Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), V Muraleedharan Parshottam Rupala from Rajkot (Gujarat) and Mansukh Mandaviya from Porbandar (Gujarat).
Announcing the names of candidates, BJP national general secretary Vinod Tawde said they include 28 women, 47 persons below 50 years of age, 27 from Scheduled Castes, 18 from Scheduled Tribes and 57 from Other Backward Classes.
The first list has 51 seats from Uttar Pradesh, 24 from Madhya Pradesh, 20 from West Bengal, 15 each from from Gujarat and Rajasthan, 12 from Kerala, nine from Telangana, 11 each from Assam, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, five from Delhi, three from Uttarakhand, two each from Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, and one each from Goa, Tripura, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Daman and Diu.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will fight again from Kota in Rajasthan and Shivraj Singh Chouhan returns to his former parliamentary constituency Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, which he represented for five terms before taking over as the state’s chief minister in 2005.
Union ministers Smriti Irani, who will fight from Amethi again, Jitendra Singh, Sarbananda Sonowal, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, G Kishan Reddy, Kiren Rijiju, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Arjun Munda also figure in the list.
Modi had contested from Varanasi for first time in 2014 as he led the BJP to its maiden majority in Lok Sabha. Since then, Uttar Pradesh has become a saffron citadel, with the party sweeping Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the state.
Tawde said the party is confident that it would form the government for the third term under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi with a much bigger mandate.
He also said that the party has been working on further expanding its footprint across various states and also to strengthen the National Democratic Alliance led by it.
Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, whose controversial utterances have drawn flak several times, has been dropped.
Bansuri Swaraj, the daughter of the late BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj, will make her poll debut from the New Delhi seat, replacing Lekhi.
Kamaljeet Sehrawat has replaced incumbent MP Parvesh Verma from West Delhi, MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri has come in place of Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi while Praveen Khadelwal, who heads a trading body, will contest from Chandni Chowk, edging out Harsh vardhan.
Manoj Tiwari is the only sitting MP from the national capital who has been retained. He will again contest from North East Delhi while the BJP is yet to name candidates for two seats.
Bhojpuri singer and actor Pawan Singh has been fielded from Asansol in West Bengal, currently represented by TMC leader and actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha.
The list for UP is full of sitting MPs with party leaders hinting that next lists may see some new names. The BJP had won 62 seats last time and is expected to contest from nearly 75 of its 80 seats in the coming polls, leaving some to allies.
In UP, the party has fielded former BSP MP Ritesh Pandey from Ambedkar Nagar, while Hema Malini, Ravi Kishan, Ajay Mishra Teni, Mahesh Sharma, SPS Baghel and Sakshi Maharaj are among those being repeated from their seats.
In Jharkhand, former Congress MP Geeta Kora has been fielded from Singhbhum (ST reserved).
Modi has set a target for the BJP to win at least 370 seats on its own in this Lok Sabha election and more than 400 for the NDA.
The BJP is looking to bolster its presence in southern states like Kerala, where it currently holds none of its 20 seats, and Telangana, where it had won four of its 17 seats in 2019. It has fielded actor Suresh Gopi from Thrissur in Kerala and is banking on some former BRS leaders to boost its tally in Telangana.
The Election Commission is expected to announce the poll schedule later this month and the elections are likely to be held in April-May.

Dr Jitendra, Jugal Kishore repeated on Udhampur, Jammu seats

Jammu: As the BJP came out with its first list of 195 candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Union minister Jitendra Singh and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma will look for a hat-trick of wins after both of them successfully retained Udhampur and Jammu Lok Sabha seats in 2019 polls, respectively. Singh (67) and Sharma (61), who are in the list of 195 candidates released by the BJP, had defeated their Congress rivals by margins of over three lakh votes in the previous Lok Sabha polls.
While the Union minister was not available for his reaction, Sharma who was present at the party headquarters along with J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina and other leaders celebrated his candidature and thanked the party leadership for “reposing faith” in him.
“I am very thankful to the prime minister, home minister Amit Shah, party president J P Nadda and Raina for providing me another opportunity to serve the people. I will work with full dedication to ensure party’s win,” Sharma said.
In 2019, Sharma defeated Indian National Congress candidate Raman Bhalla by a margin of 3,02,875 votes after securing 8,58,066 votes from Jammu parliamentary constituency. He had also won the seat for the BJP in 2014 when he defeated Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma by over 2.57 lakh votes after securing over 6.19 lakh votes.
Expressing satisfaction over Singh and Sharma’s candidature from the two constituencies of the Jammu region, Raina said he is looking forward to win all five seats in the Union territory, given the massive development work undertaken by the prime minister.
“I am sure that we will win both seats of Jammu along with Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla Lok Sabha seats,” he said.
A physician by profession, Singh retained Udhampur Lok Sabha seat defeating Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh, the grandson of erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, by 3,53,272 votes.
As per officials, it was the highest margin of victory of any successful candidate in the erstwhile state. Singh had polled 7,24,311 votes against Vikramaditya Singh who got 3,67,059 votes. In 2014, Jitendra Singh had defeated former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 60,976 votes. He was inducted in the Modi government as the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. 

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