Lucknow: After BJP's big-ticket announcements of PM Modi from Varanasi and Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, the political spotlight shifted to six Lok Sabha seats where drastic changes were made in the first list of 28 candidates for Uttar Pradesh was released on Thursday.
Of six new faces, five were once closely associated with BSP or SP. In fact, four got tickets for reserved seats of Agra, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi and Mishrikh. Another revelation was Fatehpur Sikri, where Raj Kumar Chahar has been replaced by Babu Lal.
The changes in the BJP list ride the intricate caste arithmetic to take on the SP-BSP combine in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections due in next few weeks.
The biggest change was brought about in Agra, where sitting MP and SC/ST commission chairman, Ram Shankar Kateharia has been replaced by SP Singh Baghel. Currently, a minister in Yogi Adityanath cabinet, Baghel represented the Jalesar parliamentary seat thrice on a SP ticket until 2004. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, he switched over to BSP and contested against SP chief Akhilesh Yadav from Firozabad seat, but lost. Just before 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he joined BJP and contested against SP's Akshay Yadav and lost by a margin of over 1 lakh votes.
Likewise, Jai Prakash Rawat, who replaced Anshul Verma in Hardoi reserved seat, has been a BSP veteran before switching sides. He first won the Hardoi seat in 1991 on a BSP ticket and remained with the party till 2014 Lok Sabha, when he joined SP and contested from Misrikh seat, but lost. It was only last year he joined BJP and has managed to get a ticket for Lok Sabha elections.
Similarly, Ashok Rawat who replaced sitting BJP MP Anju Bala in Misrikh, had won the seat for BSP in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. He contested 2014 Lok Sabha elections on BSP ticket from the same seat, but lost to Bala by a margin of 90,000 votes. Rawat also joined BJP last year.