Next meeting of party’s poll panel likely to be a marathon affair

The Bharatiya Janata Party's Central Election Committee will meet on March 19 to finalise the list of candidates for key States — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra— and the remaining seats in Bihar and U.P. for the Lok Sabha elections.

If the last few meetings of the Committee are any indication, the next meeting is also likely to be a marathon affair where the high-power poll panel would have to overcome internal wrangling and soothe ruffled nerves of senior party leaders who appear reluctant to shift from their parliamentary seats.

If the veterans are not being fielded, their sons are ready to take the electoral plunge this time — Yashwant Sinha’s son Jayant Sinha is the party candidate from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, while Kalyan Singh, former U.P. Chief Minister who has returned to the party fold, has managed to get the party ticket from Etah for his son Rajveer Singh.

As Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, tweeted her “stiff opposition” to the party’s decision to admit Karnataka BSR Congress leader B. Sriramulu, it prompted Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to counter in his blog that “relatively marginal issues such as who is in and who is out cannot be allowed to dominate the political agenda of the BJP.”

The indirect Sushma-Jaitley clash also pointed to the uneasy equation between them — the two most articulate leaders in the party.

If BJP patriarch L.K. Advani had in the past expressed his displeasure over the functioning of the party’s Karnataka unit and skipped the Goa meet where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was declared the party’s prime ministerial nominee last summer, Ms. Swaraj has made occasional bids to gain a high moral ground by taking an independent position on issues relating to corruption, taint and other controversies.

Though Mr. Advani, in the party’s national council meeting in January in Delhi, publicly gave his blessings to Mr. Modi and the BJP leadership sought to present a united face, party insiders say that power struggle and disquiet among the leaders are far from over. Apart from U.P., the party has also seen disagreements in Bihar over selection of candidates as well as alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Mr. Paswan quit the NDA in 2002 over the Gujarat riots.

With Mr. Modi contesting from Varanasi in Eastern U.P. and party president Rajnath Singh choosing Lucknow constituency instead of Ghaziabad, the BJP has managed to convince veteran leader Murli Manohar Joshi to shift to Kanpur from Varanasi and assured Lalji Tandon from Lucknow that he will be “compensated” suitably. The strategy behind fielding Mr. Modi from Varanasi is to strengthen the BJP’s hold over Poorvanchal region of U.P. and maximise its gains from the State, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha.

The decision was also based on inputs gathered by Mr. Modi’s trusted lieutenant Amit Shah, who is in charge of U.P., and believes that the move would galvanise the party cadres, particularly in the Eastern belt where 32 seats could play an important role in boosting its tally.

The Committee meeting will also decide the candidate for Gandhinagar seat, which has been represented by Mr. Advani since 1991. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a protégé of Mr. Advani, was learnt to be keen on offering Bhopal seat to his mentor.

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