The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announced the names of 18 candidates, including former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane, for the biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha from nine states.
The announcement came after the meeting of the BJP's Central Election Committee.
BJP general secretaries Anil Jain and Saroj Pandey, its spokespersons Anil Baluni and G V L Narasimha Rao and entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekhar are among the candidates, according to a party statement.
Rane had recently quit the Congress to join the BJP and has been rewarded with a ticket for the Upper House from Maharashtra. With ally Shiv Sena announcing a split in the alliance with the BJP for the next Lok Sabha polls, the party believes that his presence will strengthen its base in the state.
At a time it enjoys unprecedented strength in several state assemblies, which elect members to the Upper House, the party has put its faith in a number of relatively young leaders, including Baluni and Rao, who are set to make their debut as parliamentarians, while also keeping social arithmetic in mind.
It has opted for Kirori Lal Meena, an influential caste leader who had fought against it in the last Assembly polls in Rajasthan, as its candidate from the state where it is perceived to be facing anti-incumbency against the Vasundhara Raje government.
Almost all the candidates are certain to win due to the party's numerical strength in respective state assemblies, party sources said. However, it may face a fight in Maharashtra.
Baluni, who heads the party's media departments, has been fielded from Uttarakhand while Rao, a spokesperson and psephologist as well, will file his nomination from Uttar Pradesh.
Rao hails from Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP's ties with its ally TDP have soured of late with the latter withdrawing its members from the central government.
Former Kerala BJP chief V Muralidharan will be its second candidate from Maharashtra.
Saroj Pandey, who had lost the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, has been fielded from Chhattisgarh, Madan Lal Saini from Rajasthan, Lt Gen D P Vats (retd) from Haryana, Kailash Soni and Ajay Pratap Singh from Madhya Pradesh, Chandrasekhar from Karnataka and Sameer Oraon from Jharkhand.
The choice of Soni and Singh would help the party in the state going to the polls with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, party sources said. Chandrasekhar was last time elected to the Rajya Sabha as an independent candidate but has been a vocal supporter of the central government.
From Uttar Pradesh, where the party is set to win eight of the 10 seats going to the polls, its other candidates are Ashok Bajpai, who had quit the SP to join the BJP, former farmers cell chief Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam and Harnath Singh Yadav, besides Jain and Rao.
The party opted for a tribal candidate in Jharkhand to reach out to the Scheduled tribes.
The name of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, besides a number of other Union ministers had figured in the first list of candidates announced on March 7.
Voting to elect 58 members to the Rajya Sabha from different states will take place on March 23. The last date for filing nominations is March 12. March 15 is the last date for withdrawal of candidature.
There are 10 vacancies from Uttar Pradesh, six each from Bihar and Maharashtra, five each from Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, four each from Gujarat and Karnataka, three each from Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two from Jharkhand and one each from Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
(With inputs from PTI)