In first UP nominee list, BJP rewards riots accused Sangeet Som & Suresh Rana
Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, who played key roles in inciting the 2013 communal carnage in Muzaffarnagar were duly rewarded by the BJP with nominations from Sardhana and Thana Bhawan assembly constituencies.
Tejender Nirwal has been fielded from the communally-sensitive Shamli seat.
Ten sitting MLAs of other parties have been favoured with tickets as well, most of them from the BSP, the BJP's main rival in Uttar Pradesh given the infighting in the Samajwadi Party.
The BJP, which released its first list of candidates for Uttar Pradesh on Monday, after a delay of two days, thus fully justified the tag of being a communal party and raised fears of polarisation before the impending election.
Som and and Rana were indicted by the Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission of Inquiry for their part in the riots but the Akhilesh Yadav government has been soft on the two leaders.
The list of 149 must have peeved Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh as it does not include his son Pankaj Singh's name, while former UP chief minister, now Rajasthan Governor, Kalyan Singh's grandson Sandeep Singh has been made the party's candidate from Atrauli. Rajnath wants his son to be fielded from Noida. Party MP Hukum Singh's daughter too has been ignored.
The BJP leadership, which has been critical of dynasty politics, is said to be in a fix over giving tickets to relatives of some other top leaders of the party.
The turncoat legislators who have been given tickets include Mahaveer Rana (BSP), Avtaar Singh Badhana (BSP), Mamtesh Shakya (BSP), Roshan Lal Verma (BSP), Romi Sahni (BSP), BP Awasthi (BSP), Dharam Singh Saini (BSP), Dalveer Singh (Rashtriya Lok Dal), Pooran Prakash (RLD) and Avtaar Singh (Lok Dal).
In all, about 25 outsiders figure in the first list.
Rewarding the BSP rebels with tickets is a clear indication that in the BJP's assessment, these candidates were potentially stronger compared to its own leaders who had unsuccessfully contested from these seats in 2012.
Party general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak justified the nomination of outsiders with Mahaveer Rana's example. The BJP candidate from Behat, from where Rana is an MLA, had fared poorly in the last election and "therefore it is only fair to field the sitting MLA", Pathak said.
The BJP leaders who were denied tickets to accommodate the "outsiders", though, don't buy this argument. "In 2012, the BJP was not in a position to win the election, so the voters rejected us. Now that our prospects are on the upswing and we could have won, we have been ignored," said a party ticket aspirant who is keeping his fingers crossed.
In the days ahead, the BJP leaders could face protests from such disgruntled members.
The most disconcerting aspect of the list, though, is the rewarding of Suresh Rana and Sangeet Som. Rana was the first MLA to be arrested for his alleged role in the Muzaffarnagar riots. Sangeet Som too was jailed.
Also to be arrested was Sanjeev Baliyan, now a central minister. Though both Som and Rana had trashed the Justice Sahai Commission report into the riots, the fact that the BJP has backed them with tickets raises doubts about the party's intentions.
Reacting to Som and Rana's candidature, All India Muslim Personal Law Board's Zafaryab Jilani said he was not surprised at their inclusion. "The BJP will give tickets to people like them but it is for the people to accept or reject them," Jilani said.
The list makes the BJP's poll objectives amply clear. On the one hand it wants consolidation of Hindu votes in its favour and on the other it has the BSP in its cross hairs. The poll battle has just intensified in Uttar Pradesh.