Modi to contest from Varanasi, Rajnath from Lucknow

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New Delhi: Narendra Modi will contest the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, BJP announced tonight, putting to rest all speculation and hoping to boost the party’s prospects in the electorally crucial state.

Modi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, will replace sitting MP and senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who had been resisting the move. Joshi has been shifted to Kanpur.

Party President Rajnath Singh also got his way as he will contest from Lucknow in place of incumbent party MP Lalji Tandon, who too had earlier ruled out changing his constituency for Rajnath Singh.

Singh had won the last election from Ghaziabad.

Senior party leader Arun Jaitley has been fielded from Amritsar constituency in Punjab, BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar said at a press conference while releasing the list of 98 (rpt) 98 candidates finalised for 12 states.

Jaitley will replace Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was called by the party leadership during the day and offered an option of contesting from three other seats which he refused.

Asked whether Modi could contest from Gujarat also, Kumar said, “there is every possibility”. He said the list for Gujarat would be finalised on March 19, when the seat for senior leader L K Advani will also be announced.

Speculation about Modi contesting from Varanasi had been rife over the last several days because of which Joshi had been unhappy and even raised the issue at a meeting of the Central Election Committee recently.

However, the BJP leadership was keen to see Modi contest from the temple town of Varanasi as it hopes that this will boost the party’s electoral prospects in entire UP where 80 Lok Sabha seats are at stake.

Once a forte of BJP, the party’s tally in the state has been dwindling and hit a low of 10 in 2009 polls. It hopes a big swing in its fortune this time round.

The party avoided potential trouble in Bihar by deciding to field actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha from his Patna Saheb seat. Earlier, the party was in two minds on this.

Party’s General Secretary Varun Gandhi has been fielded from Sultanpur while his mother Maneka Gandhi will contest from Pilibhit, which he had won last time, BJP said.

Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti, who has shifted her base to UP, has been given ticket from Jhansi.

Former UP BJP chief Kalraj Mishra, who was expecting to be fielded from Kanpur and was resisting any move to dislodge him from there, has been asked to contest from Deoria.

Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh will contest from Baghpat and sitting MP Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.

Altogether 55 names were cleared for Uttar Pradesh, 11 for Chhattisgarh, 7 each for Haryana and Delhi, five for Uttarakhand, four for Odisha, two each for Punjab and Bihar, one each for Sikkim, Assam, Chandigarh, Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In Delhi, BJP decided to field its state unit chief Harsh Vardhan from Chandni Chowk constituency.

Spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi has been fielded from New Delhi constituency, Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari from North West Delhi, dalit leader Udit Raj from North West Delhi, Pravesh Verma from West Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi and Mahesh Giri from East Delhi.

In Uttarakhand, the party fielded three former Chief Ministers — Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Haridwar, B C Khanduri from Pauri Garhwal and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari from Nainital.

Sitting MP and Mahila Morcha chief Saroj Pandey was fielded from Durg in Chhattisgarh.
Actress-turned-politician Kirron Kher will contest from Chandigarh against Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Former Union Minister in the UPA government Rao Inderjit Singh, who recently joined BJP, has been fielded from his constituency Gurgaon in Haryana.

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