PM Modi, 34 Ministers On BJP's 1st List Of 195 Candidates For Lok Sabha Polls

Home Minister Amit Shah will contest from Gandhinagar.

The list also includes 28 women and 47 leaders under the age of 50.

New Delhi:

Hoping to get a massive first-mover advantage as it works towards its target of winning 370 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has announced a list of 195 candidates even before the poll dates have been notified. The list includes the party's heaviest hitters, PM Narendra Modi, who will be contesting from Varanasi for the third time, and Home Minister Amit Shah, who will be fielded again from Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will contest from Lucknow and Smriti Irani will be fighting from Amethi, where she had pulled off a shock victory against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in 2019. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has been named as the candidate from Kota in Rajasthan.

As many as 34 Central and state ministers and two former chief ministers are on the list, which also includes 28 women, 47 leaders under the age of 50 and 57 members from the OBC community. Of the 195, 51 are from the all-important state of Uttar Pradesh, 20 from West Bengal and five from Delhi.

For Delhi, Praveen Khandelwal, Manoj Tiwari and Sushma Swaraj's daughter Bansuri Swaraj are among the candidates. Ramesh Bidhuri, who was at the centre of a huge controversy following his alleged communal remarks against BSP lawmaker Danish Ali in the Lok Sabha last year, has not been repeated from the South Delhi seat. The seat will now be fought by Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, the leader of the opposition in the Delhi Assembly. 

Ministers In The Fray

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who had been elected from the Rajya Sabha earlier, will be contesting from Porbandar in Gujarat. Thiruvananthapuram is expected to see an interesting contest as another Rajya Sabha member and minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has been named from the seat, which is held by the Congress' Shashi Tharoor. 

Among other Union ministers, Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia will contest from Guna in Madhya Pradesh, a constituency the former Congress leader had held since 2002 until his loss to the BJP's Krishna Pal Singh Yadav in 2019. His fellow Rajya Sabha colleague Bhupender Yadav will be fielded from Alwar and Kiren Rijiju will contest from Arunachal West.

Sarbananda Sonowal will fight from Dibrugarh in Assam, Arjun Ram Meghwal from Bikaner, G Kishan Reddy from Secunderabad and Arjun Munda from Khunti in Jharkhand.

In a surprising move amid the farmers' protest, Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni will contest from the Kheri constituency again. Mr Teni's son, Ashish, had been jailed for his alleged involvement in mowing down four farmers in Lakhmipur Kheri in 2021 and justice for the victims has been one of the key demands in the ongoing protests against the Union government. 

Shivraj Chouhan To Contest

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who wasn't made the Madhya Pradesh chief minister despite the BJP's stunning victory last year, seems to be headed for a national role as he will be contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Vidisha. Another big headline from the state is that controversial MP Pragya Singh Thakur has not been repeated from Bhopal, which will now be contested by Alok Sharma. 

Among the other key candidates, Hema Malini will be fielded from Mathura, a constituency she has represented since 2014. Former Tripura chief minister Biplab Deb has been named from Tripura West. 

4 of 5 MPs Replaced In Delhi

Apart from Mr Bidhuri, Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi, former Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, and Parvesh Verma have not been given tickets for the Lok Sabha seats in Delhi that they had contested and won in 2019. Manoj Tiwari, the MP from North East Delhi, is the only one who has kept his seat and candidates are yet to be named for the remaining two constituencies. 

Exhaustive Process

The list, which also focuses on some constituencies in which the party is perceived to be weak, has been released after a series of deliberations, including a late-night, five-hour meeting chaired by PM Modi on Thursday. 

The timing of the list's release also indicates an effort to put pressure on the opposition INDIA bloc, which is still finalising seat-sharing deals in some states and has failed to arrive at a consensus on others, including West Bengal and Punjab. 

The decision on the candidates was taken after an exhaustive process in which feedback from voters in each constituency and evaluation of the sitting MPs' performance played a key role. The use of technology, including the Namo App, was crucial in this. In seats where the BJP had not won in 2019, names of probables were finalised after conducting extensive surveys.

Armed with the data, the national brass held deliberations with the leadership from each state. Caste equations were also taken into account.