BHOPAL: Alarmed by reports of severe unrest in the ranks over distribution of Lok Sabha tickets, the BJP leadership is reaching out to disgruntled leaders to thwart poaching attempts by Congress. The party has tasked national vice-president Ramlal and state in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe with putting a lid on rebellion and preventing a rerun of 2018 when dissent cost it dearly in the assembly polls.
BJP is battling dissent seven of the 15 seats it announced candidates for last Saturday. BJP leaders in Shahdol, Mandsaur, Bhind and Tikamgarh are angry that “non-performers” were chosen over strong local candidates. A few leaders have already resigned, including Singrauli district president Kanti Devsingh aka Raja Saheb and many of his supporters.
BJP faces a bigger challenge in Gwalior-Chambal and Malwa where former MPs Ashok Argal, Bhagirath Prasad and Anoop Mishra (nephew of Atal Bihari Vajpayee ) have been dropped from the list. Argal wanted the Bhind ticket while Mishra, sitting MP from Morena, was replaced with Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar .
In Malwa, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan — eight-time MP from Indore — and farmer leader Bansilal Gurjar are also unhappy at not being included in the first list.
Sources said some BJP leaders are in contact with Congress and have been offered tickets from seats of their choice. “There is resentment among senior leaders and workers. And it is growing with the party's decision to drop names on the basis of age or family relations. Some leaders who were expecting tickets are greatly disappointed, but the party will try its best to check defections,” said a senior state BJP functionary.
Sources said Congress has decided to approach Argal, a five-time MP from Morena and Bhind, and reportedly seen as a strong contender for a Union cabinet berth if BJP retains power at the Centre.
Mishra is sitting MP from Morena but lost out after being defeated in the 2018 assembly elections from Bhitarwar constituency of Gwalior by over 12,000 votes. Bhagirath Prasad, who switched from Congress to BJP in 2014 to win the Bhind Lok Sabha seat, was seeking a ticket this time, but was passed over for Sandhya Rai.
Senior party leaders, however, maintain that resentment after ticket distribution is “normal”, and that they all will support BJP to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister again. “Those who have been denied party tickets have the right to express their resentment. But Congress cannot convert it into an opportunity to bait BJP leaders for tickets. In the end, all the leaders will unite to help the party emerge victorious with a thumping majority,” BJP national vice-president Prabhat Jha told TOI.