New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a late-night meeting of the BJP’s top decision-making body to take a call on the first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha election. Sources indicated that it is likely that the party will name a chunk of candidates before the election dates are announced — a move that is expected to bring pressure on the Opposition INDIA bloc, which is still making its way through the seat sharing process.

Sources said PM Modi, the party’s chief strategist Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda and senior leaders including Rajnath Singh were part of the meeting to focus on lists drawn up by the 550-plus members of the Central Election Committee.

PM Modi held a separate meeting with Mr Shah and Mr Nadda at his home, while the other members of the CEC pored over lists of prospective candidates at the BJP office.

Senior leaders Devendra Fanavis, Prakash Javadekar, Mansukhbhai Mandaviya, Pushkar Dhami, Pramod Sawant, Bhupendra Yadav, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Keshav Maurya, Yogi Adityanath and others are also at the meeting, being held past midnight at the party headquarters in Delhi.

Sources said the meet will focus on the names of the candidates for the Lok Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Telangana, Rajasthan, Goa, Gujarat and other states.

A decision on candidates for the states of Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu has been put on hold. Alliance discussions are in progress in all three states — with Akali Dal in Punjab, Telugu Desam Party and Jana Sena in Andhra Pradesh and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, sources said.

Shortlists that name the top three candidates for each seat have been drawn up and the BJP is hoping to announce candidates for over 50 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats ahead of March 10.

This was the game plan during the last general election in 2019 also, when the BJP had announced 164 candidates on March 21, weeks before the elections were announced.

The lists, sources said, follows what the party called a “winnability survey” — a process to find the best candidate for a seat.

The Congress meanwhile, is hoping to wrap up the seat sharing process in Maharashtra as soon as possible. Leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi are expected to meet in Mumbai this evening.

The BJP is expecting the first-off-the-block strategy will put psychological pressure on the Congress as well as portray their ‘ineptitude” before the voters, sources said.


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