LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi denied Lok Sabha tickets as BJP ignores old guard in favour of fresh faces

A video retweeted by the Bharatiya Janata Party's Bengaluru South candidate Tejaswi Surya shows the 28-year-old hunched over a screen, speaking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video conference. "Tejaswi, you are tejaswi (powerful) and you shine like the surya (sun)," Modi says to the BJP youth wing star.

This is indeed Tejaswi's time in the sun: A campaign in the spotlight, media focus and a possible seat in the Lok Sabha beckons. While Tejaswi tweeted invitations to his nomination filing, a few other BJP members will not be feeling as sunny as he does. Among them are the likes of LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar, BC Khanduri, Kalraj Mishra and lastly, Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, who it was widely thought would inherit her deceased husband's seat.

The surprise inclusion of the fresh face in the BJP's list of Lok Sabha hopefuls has made one thing abundantly clear about the ruling party: in its quest to bring new blood into the candidates' list it is unafraid of ignoring its veterans.

 LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi denied Lok Sabha tickets as BJP ignores old guard in favour of fresh faces

An image retweeted by Tejaswi Surya shows the young leader campaigning with late BJP leader Ananth Kumar. Twitter/@KiranKS

This method of ignoring its most enduring names in drawing up a list of candidates serves, first and foremost,  BJP's aim of appearing to eschew dynasty. That the Congress is everything that is wrong with the dynastic power system is a line the saffron party has maintained. This election, with the inclusion of yet another member of the Gandhi family into the BJP's main Opposition party seems to have acted as a trigger to the party in moving as far away from dynasty as possible.

What is dynasty in a comparatively newer party like the BJP, if not the very people who are synonymous to the ethos of it?

On 21 March, the party announced that it will field president Amit Shah from Gandhinagar, a seat held by Lal Krishna Advani without break since 1998. On 26 March, Murli Manohar Joshi who has held the Kanpur seat said he has been dissuaded by the party's general secretary Ramlal from running for the Lok Sabha election.

The process started back in 2014, when both senior leaders were taken off the party's highest-level parliamentary board and put into the Margdarshak Mandal. Modi then announced that the party would prefer to give tickets to only those below the age of 75. In shedding Advani and Joshi, however, the party does not just give out the message that it is looking out for young blood.

One of the common threads uniting Advani and Joshi is their alleged culpability in bringing about the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the subsequent rise of aggressive Hindutva in the country. With the latter, the party arguably has little problem, considering the resurgence of tweets by Tejaswi in 2018, advocating for the consolidation of Hindu votes. The Babri violence, however, returns to haunt the BJP with every successive Supreme Court hearing and is a memory it is better off shedding ahead of the polls. What better way to make it happen than dropping two remaining leaders still associated with the day?

Tejaswini Ananth Kumar meets supporters who had visited her house after her shock absence from the BJP's candidates' list. Twitter/@Tej_AnanthKumar

Tejaswini Ananth Kumar meets supporters who had visited her house after her shock absence from the BJP's candidates' list. Twitter/@Tej_AnanthKumar

That the apparent focus of the BJP's drive to do away with older faces is to slam the Congress more conclusively on the dynasty charge is apparent from the fact that BJP leaders from party general secretary Ram Madhav have repeatedly been saying that the party (unlike the Congress) gives tickets to those who deserve it (also ostensibly, unlike the Congress).

Another person who parroted this line a mere day after learning that he has been nominated was Tejaswi himself. "I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude that a party as large as ours has nominated a karyakarta like me. The difference between other political parties and my party is that this one alone recognises the inherent potential of a karyakarta," he had told ANI.

In recognising Tejaswi's inherent potential, the BJP was forced to deny 53-year-old Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, who had been preparing to contest from the very seat her husband, the five-time parliamentarian Ananth Kumar, had left empty since his death in 2018.

NDTV reported that it was Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa who had recommended her name to his party bosses. The recent alleged revelation of the contents of the "Yeddy diaries" may have well led the party to dissociate itself with Yeddy himself, yet the overwhelming indication that there will not be any easy passage of power between family members in the BJP is hard to ignore.

To ANI, Tejaswini made no bones about how "shocking" the information was. "It is shocking to my workers and even to me. I have been telling myself it is important to show our maturity, that we are a party with a difference," she said.

Uttrakhand Chief Minister B C Khanduri. Image courtesy PIB

File image of BC Khanduri. PIB

Some leaders, like former Uttarakhand chief minister, BJP leader and retired Major General Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri, were hardly shocked when they were snubbed. Khanduri was removed from his post as president of the Defence Committee of Parliament by the Modi government recently, and had said he would not contest the 2019 elections. His son Manish, significantly, joined the Congress a few days ago and is likely to contest from his father's Pauri seat in Uttarakhand.

Like Khanduri, both Kalraj Mishra and Bhagat Singh Koshyari had announced their unwillingness to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls. Economic Times reported that the move was in clear anticipation of what would surely have been a forthcoming snub. An RSS man, Mishra, now 77, was once the national vice-president of the party and is the chairman of standing committee on defence and the office of profit committee. RSS veteran and 76 years old, Koshyari has also served as national vice-president of BJP and was the party's first state president for Uttarakhand.

Age is not the only deterrent in the BJP's quest to write a candidates' list that would bring victory.

Four-time MP from Kangra, 84-year-old Shanta Kumar, had won the last national election by a margin of 1.75 lakh votes. As is obvious, Kumar was then 79, well over the BJP's own cut-off of 75 years for allocation of tickets. However, this time, Kumar was pushed aside for Food and Civil Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor.

This, Times of India reported, was a tactical decision aimed at consolidating the votes of the entire Chamba district for the BJP.

In Assam, in a similar move, the BJP has done away with Rajen Gohain who has been representing the Nowgong Lok Sabha seat since 1999. In spite of a clean chit by the courts, Gohain's involvement in a much publicised rape case, reported Deccan Chronicleled to the party on Tuesday naming Rupak Sharma for the seat.

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Updated Date: Mar 27, 2019 16:19:01 IST