Modi to fight again from Varanasi; 34 ministers in BJP’s first list of 195 candidates

NEW DELHI, Mar 2 :

The ruling BJP on Saturday announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fight again from Varanasi in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as it named 34 Union ministers including Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani in the first list of 195 candidates.
The list also included two former ministers as well as Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who will fight again from Kota in Rajasthan, and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Vidisha.
Union ministers fielded by the BJP through the first list also included Mansukh Mandaviya, Jitendra Singh, Sarbananda Sonowal, Gajendra Shekhawat, Bhupender Yadav, G Kishan Reddy, Kiren Rijiju, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Arjun Munda.
Announcing the list, BJP National General Secretary Vinod Tawde said the party is confident that it would form the government for the third term under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a much bigger mandate.
He also said that the party has been working on further expanding its footprint across various states and also to strengthen the National Democratic Alliance.
The list included 28 women and 47 young leaders, he said.
The announced names included those for 51 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 20 in West Bengal and five in Delhi.
The list saw major changes for Delhi with Ramesh Bidhuri, Parvesh Verma, Meenakshi Lekhi and Harsh Vardhan being dropped from their respective seats, while Sadhvi Pragya Thakur was also dropped from her Bhopal seat.
Bansuri Swaraj, daughter of the late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, will make her poll debut from the New Delhi seat, Kamaljeet Sehrawat will contest from the from West Delhi, MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri from South Delhi, Praveen Khadelwal from Chandni Chowk, while Manoj Tiwari has been retained from the North East Delhi constituency. Besides Lekhi, John Barla is another Union minister who has been dropped from their seat.
Bhojpuri singer and actor Pawan Singh has been fielded from Asansol in West Bengal.
In Uttar Pradesh, the party has fielded former BSP MP Ritesh Pandey from Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha seat in UP, while Hema Malini, Ravi Kishan, Ajay Mishra Teni, Mahesh Sharma, SPS Baghel and Sakshi Maharaj are among those being repeated from their seats.
In Jharkhand, former Congress MP Geeta Koda has been fielded from Singhbhum (ST reserved).
Modi has set a target for the BJP to win at least 370 seats on its own in this Lok Sabha election and more than 400 for the NDA.
The Election Commission is expected to announce the poll schedule later this month and the elections are likely to be held in April-May.
The BJP had won 303 seats in 2019 polls but currently it has 290 members in Lok Sabha, the number decreasing for various reasons including due to some MPs recently resigning after winning assembly polls.
The BJP’s Central Election Committee (CEC) had met for more than five hours Thursday night and deliberated on names for their first list.
The CEC members, which included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party’s national president J P Nadda and Union ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, had discussed the probables for states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa and Uttarakhand among others to finalise the nominees.
Before that, Shah and Nadda hat met Modi at his residence to hold consultations.
The next CEC meeting is expected to be held next week to discuss further names. (PTI )