BJP’s 5th List: Ramayan’s Arun, Gangster’s Queen, Steelman & Panda

| Updated: 24 March, 2024 10:44 pm IST
A collage of key candidates from BJP's third list.

NEW DELHI: BJP on Sunday had the jaws dropped, with its fifth list of Lok Sabha candidates becoming an eclectic mix of TV stars, film stars, celebrated authors-cum-politicians, magnanimous-businessmen and turncoats as 1987’s Doordarshan avtar of Lord Ram, Arun Govil, and Pahari-motormouth actor Kangana Ranaut also found featured them alongside the heavyweights on their candidature.

Govil’s nomination from Meerut falls into BJP’s 2024 script to invoke the faith through the revered Ram Temple that saw its Pran Pratishita ceremony bring a galaxy of devotees and celebrities attend the mega event on January 22 this year.

Arun Govil has been fielded from Meerut.

Govil, the 72-year-old actor who belongs to Meerut, is still considered by many Hindu faithful as a blessed soul of the Lord even as his career could never lift off after Ramayan because his fans always accepted him in only one role.

Ranaut, the actor who’s known for her ferocious stand on social media and public life following her no-holds-barred spats with rebel Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray & co amid her remarks “Mumbai feels like PoK” and against several in the Bollywood on the charges of nepotism resulting from Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death, has been fielded from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

Kangana Ranaut has been fielded from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

BJP’s vice-president Baijayant Jay Panda, a man of letters and five-time MP who had switched from Biju Janta Dal and enjoys trust of both PM Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, has been fielded from Kendrapara in Odisha. Panda, who had spearheaded BJP’s campaign in Assam in assembly polls in 2021, is also party’s election in-charge for Uttar Pradesh. Panda, an erudite author, also has the responsibility of Delhi as its state in charge.

Also, in Odisha, BJP has brought back Sambit Patra after his loss to BJD’s Pinkai Misra in Puri in 2019.

In UP’s Pilibhit, BJP has dropped its eyesore Varun Gandhi, who had been mounting scathing attack on the party for last few years over policies related to farmers and instead fielded sitting Yogi cabinet minister Jitin Prasad, also a  former Rahul Gandhi and alumnus of the prestigious Doon School who had defected from Congress in 2021 ahead of then state assembly polls.

It’s not clear if Jitin, who had lost in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls on the Congress ticket, enjoys any support on the ground as he makes a debut on the BJP ticket. He was not fielded from any seat in 2022 Vidhan Sabha polls and this will be his first test despite having enjoyed love-hate relationship with CM Yogi and Centre as many say he has lacked communication strategies to showcase UP’s development while holding key PWD portfolio.

While Varun has been dropped, BJP has not hesitated to field Maneka again from Sultanpur despite her routine rants against the party and after being dropped as a cabinet minister in Modi 2.0.

In Ghaziabad, BJP has dropped Gen V K Singh, an MoS (roads) following his poor performance and complaints of rude and impolite behaviour with karyakartas and his constituencts. Singh, who originally comes from Haryana, also was unpopular among sitting MLAs in Ghaziabad as he refused to offer them any help during COVID. His departure from Lok Sabha may bring a fresh lease of life to the BJP in west UP as party is looking to cement its presence in Delhi NCR for 2025 assembly elections as well.

Calcutta high court judge Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who within 48 hours of demitting office, had joined the BJP following his frequent run-ins with Mamata government and tumultuous stay in West Bengal, has made the cut from Tamluk Lok Sabha seat where in 2019 TMC’s Dibyendu Adhikari was the winning candidate. However, Dibyendu’s exit from TMC to join the BJP, under its West Bengal’s co-incharge Amit Malviya’s presence, has blunted Mamta’s firepower to make the contest challenging while also bolstering BJP’s chances.

In Karnataka, BJP has brought back its own 2023 rebel candidate Jadgish Shettar, who had defected to Congress ahead of Karnataka Vidhan Sabha polls. Shettar, a key Lingayat figure in Karnataka and also a long-time Sangh pracharak, is one of the pillars of the BJP in North Karnataka.

Among the biggest surprises was quick induction to candidature of steel tycoon Naveen Jindal, a known philanthropist, equestrian sports patron and billionaire-chairman of Jindal Steel and Power and chancellor of OP Jindal University. Jindal, who recently attended the Ram Temple Pran Pratishta ceremony on January 22 in Ayodhya alongside his brother Sajjan Jindal, has been known for his charitable efforts across India, especially when he diverted industrial oxygen supply and donated COVID-related medicines to various hospitals, resulting in aid to thousands of people who were battling for life in north India in 2020 and 2021.

Jindal has been fielded from Kurukshetra, the same seat which he won in 2004 and 2009 on Congress ticket and was also represented by his father O P Jindal in 1996 on Haryana Lokhit Party.

In Bihar, the BJP has also dropped sitting MPs which include Ashwini Choubey from Buxar, Ajay Nishad from Muzaffarpur and Chedi Paswan in Sasaram. Choubey has been replaced with Mithsesh Tiwari, Nishad has been replaced with another Nishad (Rajbhushan) and Paswan has been replaced it with Shivesh Ram.

BJP, overall, released 111 candidates across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan and Sikkim, Telangana, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in the fifth list.

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