Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing a meeting of the BJP’s Central Election Committee in Delhi to discuss and decide on a first list of candidates before five important upcoming Assembly elections.
Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP chief J.P. Nadda are among those present, as the party is gearing up for polls in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Assam, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
According to PTI, the meeting will be used to work on finalising candidates for the first two phases of elections in Assam and Bengal, both of which will be on 27March and 1 April.
However, Thursday’s meeting is unlikely to result in any list. A second meeting is expected on Friday.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP’s trusted man in the North-East, and state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass will present their inputs for their state.
Meanwhile, key leaders from Bengal, including state chief Dilip Ghosh, will discuss candidates for their state. Ghosh said on Wednesday that the Bengal BJP has shortlisted four or five names per seat for the first two phases.
One of the constituencies in Bengal which will vote in the second phase is Nandigram, which is the seat from which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she will contest the polls. Nandigram is also the epicentre of the farmers’ movement that had propelled her to power ten years ago as well as the former seat of ex-TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari, whose crossover to the BJP in December 2020 had led to several defections from West Bengal’s ruling party.
Since then, the TMC and Adhikari have exchanged angry words, with the BJP leader accusing Banerjee last month of wanting to turn Bengal into Bangladesh, and the Chief Minister slamming “the most rotten MLAs” in an attack on Adhikari.
Nandigram will be seen as a defining seat for these polls, particularly if Banerjee takes on her former lieutenant. Adhikari has welcomed the challenge and said in a statement to PTI that he will defeat Banerjee by a margin of “at least 50,000 votes”. However, the BJP has not yet confirmed if Adhikari will, in fact, be fielded from his former constituency.
Close to 19 other MLAs have joined Adhikari in crossing over from the TMC. They include former Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee, who is also expected to get a ticket.
In Assam, where the BJP came to power for the first time in 2016, the party has been pushing hard to retain power as the Congress joins hands with regional parties to recapture its old bastion.
Meanwhile, polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will happen in a single phase on 6 April. Lists for these elections will be released at a later date.
All results will be declared on 2 May.