BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will fight the April/May Lok Sabha election from Varanasi, ending feverish speculations of weeks and months. Party president Rajnath Singh is shifting from Ghaziabad to Lucknow, a seat that has been formerly been represented by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Modi contesting from UP and from Varanasi has immense symbolic and political significance for the BJP, which wants to regain its lost glory in the state which has come to be known as the cockpit of India politics.
Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley will fight his first Lok Sabha election from Amritsar. Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu who is the sitting MP has made way for Jaitley. It is being speculated that Sidhu will be accommodated in Rajya Sabha
Though he has not uttered the word ‘Hindutva’ in his vigorous and hard-hitting campaign speeches ever since he has been named the party’s prime ministerial candidate, there is no doubt in the minds of the ideological hardliners in the Sangh parivar that Modi is the undisputed face of Hindutva, interpreted by the hard-liner right-wingers as the Ayodhya Ram temple issue, and by the moderates as “India First” sentiment which implies development and good governance.
Supporters and critics of Modi and BJP fully understand the implications of Modi fighting from Varanasi. It is a nod to the right of the party and the Sangh Parivar that the BJP respects the Hindutva sentiment and agenda because Varanasi is seen as the religious centre of Hinduism.
The decision has been taken at a marathon session of the central election committee (CEC)meeting which had lasted from 11 in the morning to 10 in the night. The party has announced 55 of the 80 seats from UP, all the seven from Delhi, five from Uttara Khand.
There was jubilation at the party office as news of Modi’s candidacy from Varanasi leaked out. When party patriarch L.K.Advani was driving out of the party premises, the party workers shouted ‘Narendra Modi Zindabad’.
The CEC has also announced the Delhi list. Party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi is the candidate from New Delhi, the Dalit leader and new entrant in the party Udit Raj from North-East Delhi and Dr Harshvardhan from Chandni Chowk, and Mahesh Giri from East Delhi. Film and TV actress Kiron Kher will fight from Chandigarh.
Senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who has won from Varanasi in 2009, will now shift to Kanpur, and Kalraj Mishra will now move from Kanpur to Deoria.
The party has taken some hard decisions as well, dropping old war horse like former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh and party veteran like Lalji Tandon, the sitting MP from Lucknow.
The other major figures in the party’s UP list include Uma Bharati from Jhansi, Maneka Gandhi from Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi from Sultanpur. On Saturday, the CEC has managed to announce 58 of the 80 seats.
Just around two months ago when a BJP leader spoke to Modi, the prime ministerial candidate was apparently keen on contesting the election from his home state, Gujarat.
Much water has flown down the Ganges since as Varanasi, on the banks of Ganga, stood testimony to the rising clamour from the BJP's rank and file for Modi to contest from Uttar Pradesh. This does not however rule out Modi fighting from Gujarat as well.
If Varanasi is deemed spiritual capital of Hinduism, Lucknow is the cultural capital symbolising the much vaunted Ganga-Jumna tehzeeb or the Hindu-Muslim syncretic culture of north India.With the politically fertile state becoming crucial in the BJP's mission 272 plus, the party decided to play its trump card from the state. Several seats were being speculated for Modi--Lucknow, Varanasi, Allahabad.
The BJP finally zeroed in on Varanasi, with the calculation Modi's impact would help it gain seats in the Poorvanchal (eastern UP) region, which besides Awadh, was the weak link for the party.When Modi’s Gujarat confidante Amit Shah was made the in-charge of the party in UP more than a year ago, he had to deal with factionalism and low morale of the cadre. Modi had however managed to galvanize the workers. This gave further impetus to the proposal that Modi should fight from the state. Shah was sure that it would help the party's prospects in the state.
As far as the discord within BJP was concerned, party sources said once the candidates were announced, the heartburn, disappointment and rivalry would take a back seat and everyone in the party will unitedly work for victory and the campaign would gain momentum.
The other major announcement was that film star Shatrughan Sinha will from Patna Sahib.