PM Modi Chairs BJP Election Committee Meeting Ahead Of Key Elections


New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing a meeting of the BJP’s Central Election Committee in Delhi, to work on and maybe finalise a first list of candidates ahead of five Assembly elections – four states and a union territory – over the next few weeks.

Party chief JP Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are among those present, as the BJP gears up for polls in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Bengal and Assam.

According to news agency PTI, in this meeting the party is likely to work on deciding candidates for the first two phases of elections in Assam and Bengal, both of which will be March 27 and April 1.

Today’s meeting is unlikely to result in any list, with a second meeting expected on Friday.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP’s go-to man in the northeast, and state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass will voice inputs for for their state. Key leaders from Bengal, including state chief Dilip Ghosh, will discuss candidates for their state.

On Wednesday Mr Ghosh said Bengal BJP had shortlisted around four to five names per seat for the first two phases; Bengal votes over a massive eight phases.

One of the Bengal constituencies voting in the second phase is Nandigram, which was the epicentre of a farmers’ movement that propelled Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to power 10 years ago, and from which she has said she will contest.

Nandigram is also the former seat of ex-Trinamool leader Suvendu Adhikari, whose crossover to the BJP in December last year sparked a flood of defections from Bengal’s ruling party.

The Trinamool and Mr Adhikari have traded angry words and barbs aplenty since; last month the BJP leader accused Ms Banerjee of wanting to turn Bengal into Bangladesh, and earlier the Chief Minister slammed “the most rotten MLAs”, in a stinging swipe at Mr Adhikari.

In the high-voltage battle for Bengal, the Nandigram election will be seen many as a potentially election-defining one for Ms Banerjee, particularly if she takes on her once-trusted lieutenant.

The BJP has not yet confirmed if Mr Adhikari will, in fact, be fielded from there.

He, though, has welcomed the challenge, and told PTI he will defeat Ms Banerjee by a margin of “at least 50,000 votes” if fielded from his former constituency.

At least 19 other MLAs have joined Mr Adhikari in crossing over from the Trinamool, including former Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee, who is also expected to get a ticket.

In Assam, where the party came to power for the first time in 2016, the BJP has been pushing hard to retain power, as the Congress joins hands with regional parties to re-capture its old bastion.

Polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, meanwhile, will take place in a single phase on April 6, with lists for these elections to be released at a later date.

All results will be declared on May 2.

With input from PTI

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