BJP may field dozen of RS members in LS polls

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has several Rajya Sabha members serving as ministers in the Union cabinet, may field a dozen of them in the Lok Sabha elections, especially from states where it has adequate representation in the Assembly and will be able to replace them in the Upper House.

The Rajya Sabha MPs being considered by the party leadership include, Union ministers Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan, Thawar Chand Gehlot, J.P. Nadda, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Chaudhary Birender Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Textile Minister Smriti Irani may again be fielded from Amethi, the parliamentary constituency represented by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, sources said.

Though defeating Gandhi on his family turf has been tough for Irani, she has accepted the challenge and continues to visit the constituency and meet locals.

At an event in Amethi recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Irani might have lost the elections but she won people’s hearts.

“In the last five years, Smriti Irani ji has worked so hard for the development of this region. She never made you feel whether you made her win or lose, she worked more than the person who won from here,” Modi said.

Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has emerged a key BJP face in Odisha after he was made a Cabinet minister in the Modi government. Pradhan started his big political career as an MLA from the Pallahara seat in 2000.

In the 14th Lok Sabha, he represented the Deogarh Parliamentary constituency, which does not exist after delimitation in 2008. He is likely to try his luck from some other seat in Odisha.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, one of the most recognised BJP faces from Scheduled Castes in Madhya Pradesh, is likely to be fielded from a reserved seat in his home state. Gehlot, a four-time Lok Sabha MP from Shajapur constituency, was elected to the Rajya Sabha in May 2012.

Health Minister J.P. Nadda did not contest the last Lok Sabha elections but may be fielded this time from Kangra, if party veteran Shanta Kumar decides not to contest.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is likely to be fielded from Patna Sahib, the constituency of rebel BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha. The seat has a sizable number of Kayastha voters.

Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi may be fielded from UP’s Rampur seat, which he had won in 1998. Vijay Goel could be fielded from Chandni Chowk, the seat represented by Union Minister Harsh Vardhan. Vardhan may be shifted to the East Delhi seat, represented by Mahesh Girri.

Besides these Union ministers, some Rajya Sabha members may also be in the Lok Sabha poll fray.

Prabhat Jha, a former BJP President from MP, may be fielded from Gwalior, while actor-turned-politician Roopa Ganguly may get the party ticket from West Bengal, sources said.

Twelve of the 25 ministers in the Modi Cabinet are Rajya Sabha members, some of whom entered the Upper House after losing the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The heavyweight ministers who are Rajya Sabha members include, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, and Civil Aviation and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Jaitley is unlikely to contest the Lok Sabha polls for health reasons. Among the party’s top strategist, Jaitley lost his first Parliamentary election from Amritsar in 2014 against Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress.

While the Lok Sabha members are elected directly by the people, the Rajya Sabha members are elected through indirect election in which members of the state legislative Assemblies cast votes.

The election to the Rajya Sabha is easier as the party having the majority in an Assembly can send its candidates to the Upper House.