After several major political parties released their lists of candidates for the five assembly seats of Ghaziabad, all eyes are now on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is yet to announce any of its candidates. Speculation is rife that the party may again field its sitting MLAs on all five seats of Loni, Muradnagar, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad and Modinagar.

The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections is scheduled to take place from February 10 to March 7 in seven phases with Ghaziabad going to polls under the first phase on February 10. Under phase 1, candidates began filing their nominations on January 14 and the last date to file nominations is January 21; nominations will be scrutinised on January 24, and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is January 27, as per the schedule announced by the Election Commission of India.

While the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress formed an alliance during the 2017 assembly elections, this time the SP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) are in alliance in western Uttar Pradesh and have fielded three candidates from Loni, Sahibabad and Modingar on Thursday. The Congress, which is contesting by itself, and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have also declared three candidates each in Ghaziabad, while the Bahujan Samaj Party has declared four candidates so far.

Following speculations about BJP candidates, some of the party’s former office-bearers took to social media to voice their opinions about candidate selection.

“I made a point which should be noted by the leaders about one assembly segment in Ghaziabad where a candidate has been given tickets three times in a row and if another ticket is given this time, how will other party workers take it? Tickets should go to deserving candidates and also to those who work hard for years,” said Ajay Sharma, former BJP president, Ghaziabad.

In December 2017, Sharma was removed as district party chief after he allegedly staged a protest against the police in Raj Nagar and publicly opposed the wedding of a Hindu woman with a Muslim man.

BJP office-bearers, however, said people raising questions on social media have not said anything against the party as yet.

“Speculation is rife as our party has not released its list yet. If the names of any candidate is repeated this time, it will be the party’s decision. The list is likely to be released by Saturday,” said Sanjeev Sharma, Ghaziabad BJP president.

Ever since the announcement of elections earlier this week, several BJP MLAs, including three ministers, have resigned from the party. These include ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, who have now joined the Samajwadi Party in the presence of party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow on Friday.

“In UP, the chariot of the country’s biggest party is slowing down and people in the BJP are fleeing the party… People should think whether these people or party can provide better facilities for you and your children. The AAP government and Arvind Kejriwal delivered what they promised in Delhi,” said AAP leader Manish Sisodia, who is also the deputy chief minister of Delhi, in a virtual rally on Friday.

He reiterated his party’s poll promises for Uttar Pradesh. “You have seen every party in UP but only the AAP can provide all these facilities to people in UP. We are the alternative,” Sisodia said.

The BJP officer bearers, however, dismissed AAP as being a major challenge.

“They have fielded candidates in the past, too, from Ghaziabad but all of them lost. This party has no presence in Ghaziabad or Uttar Pradesh and they are just contesting the election to make their presence felt. Our main fight is with the Samajwadi Party,” BJP’s city chief Sharma said.

Meanwhile, party leaders, requesting anonymity, said anti-incumbency will come into play if candidates in Ghaziabad are repeated. However, the BJP spokesperson disagreed.

“On Friday, we held a meeting with our partners in the National Democratic Alliance. Those who have left the party recently have gone on their own as their aspirations (of getting tickets or posts) could not be fulfilled. They joined our party for this reason. However, it will not impact our prospects during this election,” said Chandra Mohan, party spokesperson and secretary of the BJP state unit.

“We expect no anti-incumbency in case candidates are repeated. In the 2019 general elections, we all saw that there was no anti-incumbency,” he said.

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