Former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, ex-Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Shanta Kumar, party's deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde and Yuva Morcha chief Anurag Thakur are among the 54 names in BJP's first list of candidates released tonight for Lok Sabha polls.
The party has nominated two Muslim candidates in Jammu and Kashmir--Gulam Mohammad Mir in Baramulla and Mushtaq Ahmad Malik Nurabadi in Anantnag constituencies.
The list released after a meeting of the party's Central Election Committee, covers eight states and includes six SCs and six STs, four minorities and two women.
While Gadkari will contest for Nagpur Lok Sabha seat, Munde will be in fray in his Beed seat in Maharashtra and in Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar will be trying his luck from Kangra and Thakur in Hamirpur.
The party's Central Election Committee finalised the list after two hours of deliberations at the BJP headquarters where top leaders like Narendra Modi, L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Murli Manohar Joshi and M Venkaiah Naidu were present.
The list also includes well-known magician P C Sorcar (Jr) who will contest from Barasat in West Bengal, former union minister Tapan Sikdar to be fielded from Dum Dum seat in West Bengal, former union minister Jual Oram from Sundargarh (ST) in Odisha and film actor George Baker from Howrah in West Bengal.
Of the 54 candidates finalised today, 17 each are in Maharashtra and West Bengal, six in Odisha, five in Jammu and Kashmir, three in Himachal Pradesh and two each in Goa, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
Among the 17 candidates from Maharashtra in the first list, the party decided to field Kirit Somaiah from Mumbai North-East instead of Poonam Mahajan, daughter of BJP's late leader Pramod Mahajan, who was vying for the seat.
BJP has fielded cancer surgeon Subhash Bhamre from Dhule seat, sitting MPs Ashok Tapiram Patil and Sanjya Javle from Raver and Akola seats, sitting MLA Nana Patole from Bhandara- Gondiya seat and state president of the ST Morcha Ashok Nete from Gadchiroli-Chimur (ST) seat.
Sitting MPs Hansraj Ahir from Chandrapur, Ravsaheb Danve Patil from Jalna seat and Harishchandra Chowhan from Dindori (ST) seat, while former MPs D B Patil and Chintaman Vangna will contest from Nanded and Palghar (ST) seats.
Dilip Gandhi will contest from Ahmadnagar and former MLA Sanjaykaka Patil from Sangli in Maharashtra.
In West Bengal where the party finalised 17 candidates, state president Rahul Sinha will contest from Kolkata Uttar and former state president Tathagat Roy will fight it out in Kolkata Dakshin. Subhash Sarkar, BJP state vice president, has been fielded from Bankura.
Former DIG Satyalal Sarkar has been fielded from Jalpaiguri (SC) seat and retired IPS officers Sujit Kumar Ghosh and R K Mahanati from Murshidabad and Uluberia seats, party's state general secretary Biswapriya Roychowdhary from Balurghat, party's district president Hemchandra Burman from Cooch Behar (SC) and district general secretary Samrat Ghosh from Jangipur.
Sitting MP from Shimla (SC) in Himachal Pradesh Virender Kashyap will recontest from the seat.
In Jammu and Kashmir, state president Jugal Kishore Sharma from Jammu and state spokesperson Jitendra Singh will contest from Udhampur while Thunpsthan Chhewang has been fielded from Ladakh, state president spokesperson.
Of the two seats in Goa, sitting MP from North Goa Shripad Yesso Naik will recontest from the seat while Narendra Keshav Sawaikar, state party general secretary, will contest for South Goa.
In Arunachal Pradesh, former MPs Kiren Rijiju and Tapir Gao will contest from Arunachal West and East seats respectively.
In Manipur, R K Ranjan Singh will contest from inner Manipur while Gangmumei Kamei will fight for Outer Manipur (ST) seat.
From Odisha, former Minister Jual Oram will contest from Sundargarh (ST), while former state president Suresh Pujari will be in fray in Sambalpur and former MPs Rudra Narayan Pani and Sangeeta Kumari Deo from Dhenkanal and Bolangir respectively. Former MP Parsuram Majhi will contest from Navarangpur (ST) and Baidhar Mallik from Jagatsinghpur (SC) seat.