Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party prepares for a high-pitched battle against the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh, it is having to contend with an acrimonious strife within. The party’s announcement of the first list of candidates from UP on March 21, the evening of Holi, has caused much resentment among ticket hopefuls and leaders who did not get lucky. And they are making their displeasure evident.
Rajendra Agrawal, the sitting BJP MP from Meerut, has been chosen to contest the seat again. His selection, however, is being stridently opposed by Vineet Sharda, a senior leader of the party and convenor of the business cell in the state unit. Sharda, who had laid claim to the Meerut seat, took to Twitter to request senior BJP leaders in Delhi, including national general secretary (organisation) Ramlal, to reconsider their decision. Officially, though, the BJP has not entertained Sharda’s demand.
In the Agra region, the persistent rivalry between party MPs Ram Shankar Katheria (Agra) and Chaudhary Babulal (Fatehpur Sikri) has prompted the BJP to dump both leaders for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The decision was taken after J.P. Nadda, the BJP in-charge for UP, sent an adverse report about the duo to party national president Amit Shah. While Katheria, who is chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, has accepted the decision, Babulal has indicated he won’t go down without a fight. He held a meeting with supporters at the Chaudhary Raghu Nath Singh Mahavidyalaya in Agra and declared he would contest as an Independent from the Fatehpur seat.
Trouble is brewing in Kairana constituency as well. Pradeep Chaudhary, the MLA from Gangoh in Saharanpur, has been given a ticket. His candidature is being opposed by Mriganka Singh, who lost the Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll in 2018. Mriganka is the daughter of late parliamentarian Hukum Singh, a prominent Gujjar leader from western UP. Chaudhary, too, belongs to the Gujjar community but cannot match the clout of Hukum Singh’s family in the region.
Rattled by the dissent, BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey has issued instructions to senior leaders to bring the rebels around.
“The BJP has allotted tickets to candidates on the criteria of winnability,” reasons Dr Chandra Mohan, party spokesperson and leader from Meerut. “Leaders who are not satisfied with the party’s decisions will soon have to relent.” Anticipating the resentment, the BJP had, however, ensured that even if candidates were changed, replacements were brought in from the same castes. For instance, while the BJP has denied a ticket to sitting Sambhal MP Satyapal Saini, his replacement Parmeshwar Saini belongs to the same caste. In Shahjahanpur seat, the party did not give a ticket to sitting MP and Union minister of state for agriculture Krishna Raj. Both she and her replacement, Ashok Rawat, are Dalit leaders from the Pasi community.
Ashwani Tyagi, the BJP’s in-charge for western UP, defends the move as an attempt to strike a balance. “The party wanted proper representation for all communities in the ticket distribution. This is why the replacements are from the same castes as that of the candidates who have been dropped.”