New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released the first list of candidates for the upcoming polls in Goa and Punjab, two states which will for the first time see a three-cornered battle.
In Goa, where polling is due on 4 February, the BJP leadership has given tickets to 18 sitting members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and identified 11 new contestants.
Union minister of transport and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, who is the BJP’s Goa in-charge, told reporters in Panaji on Thursday that the BJP would release the names of the remaining 7 candidates in a couple of days.
BJP is contesting 36 seats of the total 40 in Goa and supporting independent candidates in four constituencies.
Senior leaders of the BJP point out that a majority of the candidates have been re-fielded on the advice of the state unit of the party and on the strength of a survey conducted by the BJP leadership.
“The ability to win is the foremost criteria for the BJP because the party is facing anti-incumbency along with electoral tussle from former NDA partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) which was formed by Subhash Velingkar, a former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” said a senior BJP leader.
BJP leaders also elaborated that the RSS, the ideological parent of BJP, is also watching the election closely because it is for the first time in the history of Goa politics that a former RSS leader is contesting against the BJP.
“The stakes are also high for the BJP in Goa because defence minister Manohar Parrikar was the former chief minister of the state so the party expects to electorally perform well in the state,” the BJP leader added.
Apart from internal challenges, the incumbent BJP is also in direct competition with arch rival Congress party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting in the state for the first time.
The Congress has given tickets to its six sitting MLAs in Goa. Goa Congress spokesperson Sunil Kauthankar said the party has not yet officially announced an alliance with any party.
A Goa Congress functionary, a sitting legislator, said on condition of anonymity that the party leadership could have accommodated “more professionals and new faces” in view of the challenge posed by the Aam Aadmi Party which he said had fielded many professionals.
Meanwhile, the BJP also announced the names of 17 candidates in Punjab, five of whom are sitting MLAs. The party is still to announce six more candidates out of the 23 assembly seats the BJP will contest in Punjab.
Senior BJP leaders said of the remaining six seats, four constituencies are represented by ministers in the state government which is headed by NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Also, the Congress on Thursday released the third list of 23 candidates for Punjab; so far it has announced 100 seats. The list has names of several defectors from ruling SAD.
BJP leaders said that some candidates could be dropped as they are over 75 years of age and some others are being seen more vulnerable in an election where the alliance is weathering 10 years of anti-incumbency.
Union Minister J.P. Nadda, who is also party’s central election committee (CEC) secretary, told reporters that the names of remaining candidates would be announced later.
Anuja, Abhiram Ghadyalpatil and PTI contributed to the story