Rajya Sabha polls | Nadda from Gujarat, Chavan from Maharashtra in BJP list, Vaishnaw gets support from BJD as well

Sitting Rajya Sabha MPs Mr. Vaishnaw, Mr. Murugan excepted from BJP diktat to contest LS polls; BJD says support for Mr. Vaishnaw will benefit Odisha in the fields of Railways, IT

February 14, 2024 11:04 am | Updated 06:48 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of Union Ministers L . Murugan and Ashwini Vaishnaw during an official event in New Delhi.

A file photo of Union Ministers L . Murugan and Ashwini Vaishnaw during an official event in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will nominate to the Rajya Sabha its national president J.P. Nadda from Gujarat, Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and L. Murugan from Odisha and Madhya Pradesh respectively, and new entrant and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan from his home State, the party announced on Wednesday. The biennial polls are scheduled for February 27.

The nomination of Mr. Murugan and Mr. Vaishnaw makes them the only two exceptions to the BJP high command’s decision that Union Ministers completing their terms in the Rajya Sabha must now fight the Lok Sabha polls. That list included Ministers Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Bhupendra Yadav, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mansukh Mandaviya, and Parshottam Rupala.

BJD supports BJP Minister

Interestingly, in the case of Mr Vaishnaw, his candidature has received support from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as well, in a repeat from 2019. Given that the BJD could have secured a third seat form Odisha, this move is politically intriguing; in a statement, the party said its decision was meant to benefit Odisha in the fields of railways and information technology, both portfolios held by Mr. Vaishnaw.

The move has triggered speculation that it may soften the Odisha BJP’s confrontational stance towards the BJD-led government headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, especially with simultaneous State and general elections on the horizon.

The Congress, now diminished to a non-entity in the State, has started pushing a narrative that the BJD and BJP are two sides of the same coin.

Gujarat diamond baron

From Gujarat, apart from Mr. Nadda, the BJP has also fielded diamond baron Govindbhai Dholakia, owner of Sri Krishna Exports, one of the largest diamond companies in Surat. He is also a philanthropist and has built over 250 Hanuman temples in the tribal region of Dangs in southern Gujarat. Local media reports say that he had also given an individual donation of ₹11 crores for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The other two candidates picked by the BJP from Gujarat are Jaswantsinh Parmar, a doctor from Godhara, and Mayank Nayak from Patan in north Gujarat. Both are considered other backward class (OBC) representatives, with Mr. Nayak being the former chairman of the Gujarat BJP’s OBC Morcha.

Seeking Brahmin votes

From Maharashtra, Mr. Chavan’s nomination is not suprising as it was considered part of the deal he made when he joined the BJP. Another nominee from the State is Medha Kulkarni, a prominent Brahmin face of the party in Pune who is currently serving as the vice president of the BJP women’s wing, having represented the Kothrud Assembly seat from 2014 to 2019. The BJP had lost the Kasba Peth Assembly seat to the Congress in a 2023 bypoll, fuelling a perception that the party’s essential Brahmin voters sensed neglect; Ms. Kulkarni’s nomination is being seen as an attempt to appease the community ahead of Lok Sabha election.

The third nominee is Ajeet Gopchade, who hails from Marathwada’s Nanded district and belongs to the Lingayat community.

Balancing caste interests

Mr. Murugan’s nomination from M.P. points to his proximity to the BJP high command, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having attended Pongal celebrations at the Minister’s residence.

The other three nominees from M.P. reflect the BJP’s strategy of balancing various community groups ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Umesh Nath Maharaj, a Dalit, is a prominent religious leader and the head priest (mahamandaleshwar) of Ujjain’s Valmiki Ashram. He is also considered close to the top leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. Maya Naroliya is president of the M.P. BJP’s Mahila Morcha and hails from the OBC community, while Bansilal Gurjar, who hails from Mandsaur, is currently the national vice-president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha and also belongs to the OBC block.

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