LUCKNOW: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek re-election from Varanasi and home minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, while Union Minister Smriti Irani will be challenging Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in his bastion Amethi yet again, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dropped just six sitting MPs in the first list of 28 UP candidates for the Lok Sabha elections announced on Thursday.
However, BJP candidates announced for UP give an idea of party's strategy to counter SP-BSP challenge with its new caste arithmetic in the state. Of six sitting MPs dumped, four are from reserved seats.
Prominent among those who have been dropped are Ram Shankar Katheria from Agra and Union minister Krishna Raj from Shahjahanpur. Katheria is chairman Scheduled Caste Commission. UP Cabinet minister SPS Baghel has replaced Katehria on the Agra reserved seat.
Arun Sagar has replaced Krishna Raj in Shajahanpur, again a reserved seat. In Agra, Baghel's candidature is expected to manage a strong section of non-Jatav SC in the region.
As per the common perception, following SP-BSP alliance, the Jatav vote will considerably shift towards the Opposition in western UP where BSP is comparatively strong.
However, the changes in reserved seats of Shajahanpur, Hardoi and Misrikh have been because of non-performance of the sitting MPs. In Hardoi, Anshul Verma will be replaced by Jaiprakash Rawat, Ashok Rawat will replace Anjubala in Mishrikh.
The other two sitting MPs who have denied tickets include, Parmeshawar Lal Saini who has replaced Satyapal Saini in Sambhal; Babulal has been replaced by Rajkumar Chahar in Fatehpur Sikri. Even in Badaun, against SP's Dharmedra Yadav, the party has brought in Sanghmitra Maurya, daughter of UP cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya.
Maurya had been a long time trusted aide of BSP chief Mayawati and senior leader of the BSP. By fielding his daughter from Badaun, BJP is trying to woo non-Yadavs in the region. Yadavs, most likely, will be voting for the SP.
However, the candidature of Union minister Smriti Irani from high profile parliamentary constituency of Amethi was a foregone conclusion. Smriti, had lost to Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi in 2014 but she could successfully brought his victory margin considerably down to just one lakh from huge three lakh in 2009.
Of 28 UP candidates, 16 are for western UP going to polls in the first three phases of elections. Meanwhile, 11 candidates for central and one - Varanasi-have been announced.
Of 16 western UP candidates announced so far, Kairana, where BJP lost the Lok Sabha by-poll last year to RLD's Tabassum Hasan and Firozabad, which witnesses a face-off between two members of Yadav family -- Shivpal and nephew Akshay -- are yet to be announced. Kairana is going to the polls in the first phase and Firozabad in the third.
The party has reposed faith in 20 sitting MPs, including the ones from sensitive seats like Saharanpur (Raghav Lakhanpal) and Muzaffarnagar (Sanjeev Balyan), Aligarh (Satish Gautam) Interestingly, Unnao MP Sakashi Maharaj, too, has managed to retain his ticket. He had created flutter by writing a letter to State BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey for a ticket.
BJP has also repeated prominent sitting MPs like Hema Malini (Mathura), Santosh Gangwar (Bareliiy), Rajveer Singh (Etah), Dr Satyapal Singh (Baghpat), Mahesh Sharma (Noida), VK Singh (Ghaziabad), Rajendra Agarwal (Meerut) and Kaushal Kishore in Mohanlalganj (Reserved).