This Article is From Mar 22, 2014

Colouring the electoral landscape: defectors and dissenters

Rahul Narvekar (Right) with NCP leader Ajit Pawar.

New Delhi: Hours after BJP leader Jaswant Singh's name didn't make it to the list of candidates from Rajasthan, his supporters allegedly tore down posters of the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Barmer, Rajasthan.

It was a seat that the senior leader wanted to represent in what's expected to be his last election. However the BJP has decided to field a recent import from the Congress - Jat leader Colonel (Retd.) Sonaram Choudhary. (Read: Jaswant Singh not granted Barmer, the constituency he requested)

The Barmer incident means the party could be staring at another crisis a day after party patriarch LK Advani's 24-hour protest.
Jaswant Singh is now the third senior leader in the party whose wish to contest from his seat of preference has been sidelined by the BJP.

On March 20, BJP's seniormost leader LK Advani accepted, after a 24-hour sulk, the party's diktat that he must contest from Gandhinagar in Gujarat. He had wanted to contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. (Read: Advani picks Gandhinagar after all)

Earlier, veteran Murli Manohar Joshi had to vacate the Varasani seat and shift to Kanpur to make way for Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Yet, the party insists the old guard hasn't been ignored and there is no dissent within.

On the other hand, though leaders like P Chidambaram have refused to contest making way for his son, the grand old party is fielding its veterans.

Rajya Sabha MP Manishankar Aiyar is back in the fray after losing in 2009.

After his initial reluctance to contest from Amritsar, former royal and 72-year-old Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh will take on senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Former union minister Ambika Soni is expected to contest from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.

And as parties try to balance the old and the new, it also comes with its colourful mix of changing loyalties and new pledges.

Given that elections can make or break political fortunes, political parties and politicians are happy to change loyalties almost overnight. A ticket denied or a family fued becomes the perfect platform to merge political convenience with personal interest. (Read: 10 politicians who jumped ship this election season)

Congress MP from Barmer Col Sonaram Choudhary, now BJPs candidate for the Lok Sabha elections is one such example.

Ram Kirpal Yadav of Lalu's RJD jumped to the saffron fold after he was denied a ticket from Pataliputra, a seat that went to Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter Misa Bharti.

The BJP has seen the highest surge of new entrants, including controversial ones like B Sriramulu, who, despite opposition from Sushma Swaraj, is a BJP candidate from Karnataka. Former Union Minister D Purandeshwari, who represented Visakhapatnam till recently, also joined the BJP. On Friday, Congress MP and former union minister Satpal Maharaj was inducted into the party by President Rajnath Singh.

Congress leader Jagdambika Pal also switched loyalties and is contesting from Domariayaganj on a BJP ticket.

MP from Aurangabad in Bihar, Sushil Singh, with JD-U till a few weeks ago is now a BJP candidate.

Dr Heena Gavit, in the fray from Nandurbar in Maharashtra is the daughter of NCP leader Vijaykumar Gavit. He lost his cabinet berth, hours after his daughter changed sides.

But this trend of 'defector till yesterday - candidate today' cuts across party lines and constituencies.

Jaya Prada and Amar Singh have joined Ajit Singh's RLD, and are fighting from Bijnore and Fatehpur respectively.

Shiv Sena has lost its spokesperson Rahul Narvekar and five term former MP Mohan Rawale, to Sharad Pawar's NCP. Mr Narvekar is now contesting from the Maval seat in Maharashtra.

Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's niece Karuna Shukla joined the Congress just before elections were declared and is now contesting on a Congress ticket from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh.

Whether it is winnability, political compulsion or safeguarding political interests, dissenters and defectors alike are colouring the political landscape ahead of this election.