Raebareli: BJP pits ex-Congressman against Sonia

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday named former Congress leader Dinesh Pratap Singh as candidate against UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and benched two MPs, Kirit Somaiya from Mumbai North East and Ram Charitra Nishad from Machhlishahr in UP.

Singh, former Congress MLC and resident of Raebareli, had joined the BJP a year ago. Sonia Gandhi has been representing Raebareli in the Lok Sabha since 2004.

The BJP has fielded Bhojpuri actor and singer Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ against former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Azamgarh. In 2014, Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had won the seat defeating BJP’s Ramakant Yadav by over 63,000 votes.

Prem Singh Shakya has been pitted against Mulayam Singh Yadav in Mainpuri. Shakya had earlier contested on a BJP ticket the seat, which holds a sizeable number of Shakya community voters along with Yadavs.

In Firozabad, the BJP has fielded Chandra Sen Jadun against Akshay Pratap Yadav, son of SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav. Younger brother of the SP patriarch, Shivpal Yadav who recently formed his own political outfit, is also in the race from the seat.

The Congress has not fielded any candidate against leaders of the Mulayam family.

In the 2014 elections, the SP won five seats, including Azamgarh, Mainpuri and Firozabad. The BJP had won 71 seats and its ally Apna Dal two. The Congress could only save its Raebareli and Amethi seats.

The BJP has replaced Machhlishahr MP Ram Charitra Nishad with V.P. Saroj.

Dropping Somaiya, the BJP has fielded Manoj Kotak from Mumbai North East. Somaiya’s candidature was strongly opposed by the Shiv Sena, the BJP ally.

Kotak is the BJP group leader in the Shiv Sena-controlled BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and a veteran councillor.

Somaiya is a two-time MP (1999 and 2014) from Mumbai North East, the constituency that elected Subramanian Swamy of the Janata Party (1977, 1980), late Jaywantiben Mehta of BJP (1989), late Pramod Mahajan of BJP (1996) and late Gurudas Kamat of the Congress (1984, 1991, 1998 and 2004).

Earlier in the day, the BJP released a list of three candidates for the parliamentary constituencies of Mehsana and Surat in Gujarat and Thrissur in Kerala.

It has fielded Rajya Sabha member Suresh Gopi from Thrissur. The 60-year-old actor became an out and out Modi fan after he was personally invited for the Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014. In April 2016, Gopi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and ever since has been a regular at most BJP functions in Kerala.

Gopi will face T.N. Prathapan of teh Congress and Rajaji Mathew Thomas of the CPI — both former legislators. C.N. Jayadevan of the CPI won the seat in 2014.

The party has fielded its outgoing MP Darshana Jardosh from Surat and Sharda Ben Patel from Mehsana.