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BJP facing seat blues - despite poll trends

BJP facing seat blues - despite poll trends

New Delhi: The BJP, notwithstanding the many straw polls showing it well ahead of its rivals, is having a fairly tough time internally in declaring seats for its top leaders as also in deciding about some alliances for the Lok Sabha polls, say party sources.

"Not everything is hunky dory in the party on decisions concerning seats," acknowledged a party insider.

"Issues have to be sorted out including choice of seats for some top party leaders," he said.

Among the issues facing the party is the decision on a parliamentary constituency for the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The party also has to decide if he will contest from two seats including a constituency in his native Gujarat.

There is a strong pitch in party circles that Modi should contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to bolster the party's prospects in the crucial state which sends 80 MPs to parliament. But there is also the question of accommodating senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, the sitting MP from Varanasi, if such a decision is taken.

Party sources said if Modi is fielded from Varanasi, Joshi would have to be accommodated on a seat he feels sure of winning.

They said Joshi may opt for Kanpur which is held by the Congress at present.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also has to weigh the option that Modi contest from two seats.

"Modi's contesting from Varanasi will be beneficial for the party in Uttar Pradesh. It will also help the party in the adjoining state of Bihar. But there is also pressure on him to contest from Gujarat," a party functionary, not willing to be identified, told IANS.

He acknowledged that Modi contesting from two seats is likely to invite criticism from the party's adversaries including the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party about his being unsure of victory.

"All the factors will be taken into account before a final decision is taken," the functionary said.

Sources said that BJP chief Rajnath Singh is keen to move to Lucknow from his present seat of Ghaziabad but there is no firm indication yet of sitting MP Lalji Tandon having agreed to leave the seat for him.

Tandon has, however, said that he would be happy to leave the seat for Modi if he desires to contest from Lucknow.

"There will be some clarity on the seats for senior leaders on March 13 when the central election committee is expected to meet. Ghaziabad will go to the polls April 10 and the candidate for the seat is expected to be declared early. An announcement may also be made about the Varanasi seat," a party leader said.

The party has also not yet announced the seat of party veteran L.K. Advani though he is again likely to fight from Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Sushma Swaraj is also among the senior leaders whose name has not yet been formally announced.

Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed took a dig at the BJP for the uncertainty in the party over the choice of seats for its top leaders.

"There is this perception being created that a wind is blowing in favour of Modi. But the claim holds no water as a safe seat is being found for him not only in UP but in Gujarat also. The position of Rajnath Singh is also bad as there is talk of his moving to Lucknow. A safe seat is being found for him also. How is there a wind in favour of Modi," Ahmed asked while speaking to IANS.

Another issue facing the BJP is about alliances in states such as Haryana and Karnataka. Sushma Swaraj has opposed the proposed merger of BSR Congress with the BJP in Karnataka and has also objected to the possibility of former Congress leader Venod Sharma joining the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), an alliance partner of her party.

Though many in the BJP see a better winning combination with the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana, the party is wary of it in the wake of the conviction of INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala in a teacher recruitment scam.

Also, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's decision to field candidates and its declaration of support to Modi has caused some tensions in the BJP's ties with old ally Shiv Sena.

BJP has struck an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar in the run up to the elections and is in talks for electoral tie-ups in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

BJP leaders said there was consolidation behind the party and individuals were joining it after leaving other parties in several states.

Party leader Arun Jaitley said in an article that the next few days were going to be extremely important "in terms of the BJP and NDA consolidating on the present situation" in the three southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

"These developments will add to the strength of BJP in eastern and southern parts of India where the BJP traditionally was not a strong political force," he said.


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