But discord at the top comes to the fore at poll meet

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to expand its electoral alliance made headway as a pact with the TDP in Andhra Pradesh appeared imminent, but the discord among senior BJP leaders reportedly shadowed a meeting on Saturday of the Central Election Committee that finalised 52 more candidates for the Lok Sabha. The party had earlier announced 54 candidates.

Clear signs of the simmering tension within the party were visible at the CEC as Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, expressed her concern about the party warming up to Sriramulu’s BSR Congress in Karnataka, while senior leader Dr. M.M. Joshi made it clear that he would not be happy to vacate Varanasi, his current Lok Sabha seat, for the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Dr. Joshi sought clarifications from the party leadership on news reports that Mr. Modi would be contesting from Varanasi.

The Reddy brothers, who controlled mining in Karnataka’s Bellary region, are part of the BSR Congress. Sources said Ms. Swaraj was upset at the inclusion of allies without consensus.

The BJP is also struggling to keep the Shiv Sena happy in Maharashtra even as it continues to hope for an informal seat arrangement with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Sena’s bête noire. For the record, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy ruled out an alliance with the MNS, but MNS sources have told The Hindu that the party may not field candidates against the BJP in the State. MNS chief Raj Thackeray is planning to declare his candidates on Sunday. The BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari had met the MNS chief recently, triggering speculation that the parties may be working on a seat arrangement. Mr. Rudy said the BJP's only ally in Maharashtra was the Shiv Sena and there was no possibility of seat adjustments with the MNS.

In Andhra Pradesh, a formal announcement on the tie-up between the BJP and the TDP is likely to be made early next week, according to sources. The two parties arrived at a broad consensus and the leaders are now working on the contours of the alliance, including seat sharing. The alliance comes after hectic parleys held by TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu with the BJP top brass, including its president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Venkaiah Naidu.

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