A chorus of protest in M.P., Rajasthan, Delhi and U.P.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempts to quell rumours of becoming a “party with differences” have been torpedoed by open disagreements over seat allocation and the conspicuous unease among senior leaders L.K. Advani, Lalji Tandon, and, now, Jaswant Singh.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the discontent at the top has percolated to the ranks with protests over candidates selection becoming more visible and vocal.
A chorus of angry voices is being heard from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, although party spokespersons described the rumblings as indications of the BJP’s “democratic functioning.”
In Uttar Pradesh, where the party is yet to release the full list, differences are out in the open over the choice of candidates in several places, including Domariyaganj, where the former Congress leader Jagdambika Pal has been nominated, and Ghaziabad, where Gen. V.K. Singh has been fielded.
In Lucknow, Mr. Lalji Tandon’s supporters are angry at their leader being overlooked. Hema Malini’s last-minute inclusion as a contestant from Mathura has led to heartburning, and the nomination of Satish Gautam from Aligarh was marked by protests.
“Jagdambika Pal joined the party on Wednesday and was nominated the same day. So was Heena Gaveet from Nandurbar in Maharashtra. A compulsion to win seems to override conscience in the choice of candidates,” a functionary said.
Allahabad, a key constituency, has been given to Shyama Charan Gupta, who till a few days ago was a well-known Samajwadi Party member.
The nominations of M.P. Pandey from Chandoli, V.S. Mast from Badohi and Chotte Lal from Sonbhadra have fuelled fear among party workers that the remaining seats will also be given to “outsiders.”
A senior leader said party workers did not want to derail the BJP’s 272+ mission as everyone was contributing to the ‘Modi for PM’ campaign. But when the party opted for outsiders it would send out a wrong message, he said.
“When Dalit leader Udit Raj joined the BJP, the leadership spoke of how he would impact voting in Uttar Pradesh, but he has been given ticket from Delhi, where his influence is limited. Similarly, the party chose Kirron Kher in Chandigarh, overlooking three strong contenders. Workers on the ground see this as a let-down and it also demoralises them,” he added.
In Madhya Pradesh, too, there are fissures.
The constituency where the party’s candidate is facing maximum resentment is Hoshangabad. The BJP has fielded the former Congress MP, Rao Uday Pratap Singh, making BJP workers paste posters against his nomination.
BJP sources said they were confident that the ‘Modi wave’ and the RSS influence in the district would help the party overcome dissent.
In Rajasthan, the most vocal opposition to ticket distribution has been in Barmer and Sikar. In Barmer, BJP workers are miffed at the party denying ticket to Mr. Jaswant Singh and nominating the former Congress MLA, Sonaram Chaudhary, who joined the BJP only three days ago.
In Sikar, BJP heavyweights — the sitting MP, Subhash Maharia, and district president Hariram Ranwa — have come out against the decision to give ticket to Swami Sumedhanand.
(With additional reporting by Pheroze L.Vincent in Bhopal and Mahim Pratap Singh in Jaipur)