To encash, what it says is a wave in favour of its PM nominee Narendra Modi, and to prevent first-time and young voters from gravitating to other parties like the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, BJP plans to field fresh faces from Mumbai in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP and Shiv Sena had drawn a blank in the city in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, largely due to the MNS eating into Maharashtrian votes. Party leaders admit that they need to increase their tally from Maharashtra to have a chance of coming to power in Delhi. In Mumbai, BJP contests three of six Lok Sabha seats.
BJP has also begun re-inducting leaders who had left the party earlier. On Friday, ex-corporator Parag Alavani and his wife Jyoti, a corporator, and former corporator Jayashree Kharat re-joined BJP. Sources said more partymen who quit before the 2012 civic polls may follow suit.
A senior BJP leader said new faces could be fielded to encash anti-incumbency sentiments and ensure that youth and first-time voters do not gravitate to parties like MNS. “We expect that projecting Modi as our PM nominee will help draw these votes… We need to pitch younger candidates,” said the leader, pointing to how Raj had praised Modi in the past.
Former Union minister and five-term MP Ram Naik, who lost the elections from the Mumbai North constituency to Congress nominees, actor Govinda in 2004 and Sanjay Nirupam in 2009, has announced that he will not contest the coming polls. MLAs Gopal Shetty and Yogesh Sagar and ex-MLA Hemendra Mehta are among those seen as possible replacements, said the BJP leader, adding that a fresh face was also being considered against Mumbai North Central MP Priya Dutt.
In 2009, lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani had contested against Dutt and Mumbai BJP president and MLC Ashish Shelar is among those tipped off for the contest this time. A BJP leader said former-Lok Sabha MP, Kirit Somaiya, may be fielded against NCP’s Sanjay Dina Patil from Mumbai North East.
In 2009, BJP nominees Naik and Somaiya lost by wafer-thin margins against Nirupam and Patil, largely due to presence of MNS in the contest.
“The BJP will benefit from Modi’s projection as PM candidate,” said a senior state BJP leader, adding that while the party was likely to repeat most of its sitting Lok Sabha MPs in Maharashtra, candidates in some seats where the party had been defeated in 2009 could be changed.
Among likely contenders...
Former Union minister and five-term MP Ram Naik, who lost the elections from Mumbai North to Congress nominees, actor Govinda in 2004 and Sanjay Nirupam in 2009, has announced that he will not contest the 2014 polls. MLAs Gopal Shetty and Yogesh Sagar and ex-MLA
Hemendra Mehta are among those the likely replacements, says a BJP leader.
Also, Mumbai BJP president and MLC Ashish Shelar may be considered to fight the election against Mumbai North Central MP Priya Dutt