New Delhi: For the last few decades, they were the BJP’s prominent faces and voices in the Lower House of Parliament but now their voices would not be heard in the 17th Lok Sabha which is to be constituted after the May 23 results.
L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra, Ramesh Bais, B.C. Khanduri, Rajen Gohain and Bijoya Chakraborty are among party veterans, whom the BJP is not fielding in the crucial Lok Sabha elections, while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and firebrand leader Uma Bharti have opted out.
The development assumes significance as it aims at a generational shift in the ruling party which remained mostly in the opposition during its long journey.
Advani, a founding member of the BJP and an eleven-time MP, who is credited with a significant role in strengthening the party’s political base, will not contest the Lok Sabha polls as the party has fielded BJP President Amit Shah from Gandhinagar.
A house member from the 12th to the 16th Lok Sabha (1998-2019, he was Deputy Prime Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments (1998-2004) and remained the Leader of Opposition during much of Manmohan Singh’s UPA era (2004-2014).
The BJP grew in size phenomenally after Advani took out the rath yatra in 1990s, mustering support to build a Ram Temple at Ayodhya.
Advani was elected to the Rajya Sabha for four terms and to the Lok Sabha on seven occasions.
Besides Advani, party veterans Shanta Kumar, 85, Kalraj Mishra, 77, and Bhagat Singh Koshyari, 77, will not be contesting the Lok Sabha polls. Murli Manohar Joshi, who represents Kanpur Lok Sabha constituency, is also likely to be left out.
Joshi, who won in 2014 from Kanpur, was the BJP President between 1991 and 1993 and has also represented Allahabad and Varanasi in Parliament. In 2014, he was shifted to Kanpur after the party decided to field Narendra Modi in Varanasi.
Advani and Joshi, considered top leaders of BJP after former Prime Minister Vajpayee, did not find a place in BJP’s highest decision-making body, the Parliamentary Board when Shah took charge. Instead he created a Marg Darshak Mandal that comprises Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Shah himself as well as Joshi and Advani.
Shanta Kumar, who is credited with building the party in Himchal Pradesh, has been representing Kangra constituency in the hill state. The former Chief Minister was first elected from there in 1989 and re-elected in 1998, 1999 and 2014, the last with a record margin of 1.7 lakh votes.
Mishra, the BJP’s prominent Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh, represented Deoria in the current Lok Sabha after previously being a Rajya Sabga member. He was inducted into the Modi cabinet as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister but dropped later on age grounds.
Hukmdev Narayan Yadav, who represents Madhubani in Bihar, is the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award. Known for his fiery speeches in Parliament, he was elected to Lok Sabha first time in 1977. The BJP had fielded his son from the constituency.
Kariya Munda, octogenarian MP and the tallest BJP leader in Jharkhand, first entered the Lok Sabha in 1977 from Khunti and since 1989, he has been representing the seat continuously till 2014, barring only once in 2004 when he lost to Congress’s Sushila Kerkata.
Munda, who lost his first election but rose to become a cabinet minister and Deputy Lok Sabha Speaker, has been replaced by former Chief Minister Arjun Munda.
Bais, considered the architect of BJP in Chhattisgarh, has also been denied ticket this election. Though continuously winning the Raipur parliamentary constituency since 1996, he has now been replaced by Sunil Soni.
Bais was elected to the Municipal Corporation of Raipur in 1978. A member of Madhya Pradesh Assembly from 1980 to 1984, he was elected for the first time to the Lok Sabha from Raipur in 1989 and was re-elected consecutively from 1996 to 2014. He also served as a Minister in the Vajpayee government.
Koshyari, a former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and Minister in the Vajpayee government, currently represents Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar constituency. He also served as a Rajya Sabha MP.
Bijoya Chakraborty and Rajen Gohain had been BJP’s prominent faces from Assam.
Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 while the results will be declared on 23 May.