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How Dropped Candidates Keep Busy

April 25, 2024 12:02 IST

Cricket climate change to medical practice, dropped candidates have their non-political life sorted.

IMAGE: Gautam Gambhir, the former Kolkata Knight Riders skipper, is back as the team's mentor. Photograph: KKR/Instagram

When the list of candidates for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections was announced, many big names were missing from seats they had previously won or had contested on -- some for a decade or more.

For a few of those, politics has now taken a back seat. The Bharatiya Janata Party's 2019 East Delhi MP, Gautam Gambhir, announced hours before his party released its first list of candidates on March 2 that he was moving away from political responsibilities to focus better on his 'upcoming cricket commitments'. The list did not include Gambhir's name.

Former Union minister Jayant Sinha, a two-term MP from Jharkhand's Hazaribagh, dropped out, again hours before his party's list of candidates was announced, to focus his efforts on 'combating global climate change in Bharat and around the world.'

Dr Harsh Vardhan, an MP from Chandni Chowk, and the BJP's senior leader in Delhi, said he wanted to focus on social work and his practise as a physician.

In some cases, the discards have refused to throw in the towel without protest.

After the BJP dropped her, Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur clarified that she had no plans to quit the BJP and would remain available wherever the organisation needed her, and will fulfil any responsibility. She said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not have been 'pleased' with her choice of words in the past and had told her she 'will not be forgiven'.

In a surprising turn of events, the BJP dropped Varun Gandhi from the Pilibhit Lok Sabha seat, which he had won twice in 2009 and 2019, and instead fielded Jitin Prasada.

The Gandhi family scion has ever since been missing from centre stage and according to media reports has been 'helping from the inside'. After being benched, the BJP MP penned an emotional note to his Pilibhit voters, emphasising his old bonds with them, but giving no hint as to his political future.

In a significant shift after 35 years, Pilibhit's electoral landscape will see no Gandhi contesting from the seat.

Another bolt from the blue was to Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi who had to make way for Bansuri Swaraj's debut from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency. Lekhi is actively campaigning for the BJP.

Some veterans of Indian politics have ostensibly taken a sabbatical from electoral politics, such as former prime minister H D Deve Gowda who announced he will not contest due to his age. The 90-year-old Janata Dal-Secular supremo said he would campaign for candidates in the elections.

Likewise, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah will also not contest due to health concerns.

But this does not signal an end to his electoral career, said his son and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. 'With my father, I have learnt over time that you never say never, ever. So until the very last breath, and may God give him many more of them, do not ever write him off for anything,' Omar told news agency PTI.

Others who have since shifted to the Rajya Sabha, continue to campaign for their respective parties. Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, an MP from Rae Bareli since 2004, moved to the Rajya Sabha, and is campaigning for the party occasionally.

She attended the INDIA bloc rally at Delhi's Ramlila Ground in March. Ajay Maken, who lost the 2019 polls from Delhi, is now a Rajya Sabha MP handling the party's coffers.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge also moved away from his home turf of Gulbarga, addressing rallies across the country as its national president, but has called upon the electorate to 'avenge' his defeat by electing a Congress candidate, his son-in-law, Radhakrishna Doddamani.

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party's Atishi, who lost from East Delhi, is now a finance minister of Delhi and has become one of the lead campaigners of her party in the absence of party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

Her colleague Raghav Chaddha, has been named as one of the AAP's star campaigners for Gujarat.

Bharat Rashtra Samithi's K Kavitha, who lost in 2019, found herself in a situation with no good solutions. The BRS leader continues to remain behind bars but has sought interim bail to participate in the elections.

The country's entertainment stars, from Bollywood to local folk, have often found a seat and a party banking on their stardom. Yet only a few have stayed.

In a twist of fate, singer Babul Supriyo, who as the BJP candidate from Asansol, defeated the Trinamool Congress's Moon Moon Sen in 2019, is now a Trinamool legislator. Sen, however, is not a contestant in 2024 and was most recently seen attending cultural events, opting to remain away from the polls.

The BJP's Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol bowed out of electoral politics, and could be seen in an advertisement exhorting people to exercise their right to vote.

Meanwhile, Kirron Kher (the sitting BJP MP from Chandigarh) clarified that she was not dropped but had rather requested to sit out this time. Kher said she had recently battled cancer and because of it she missed out that year in Chandigarh and did not wish for the BJP to suffer because of her absence.

She hoped to continue contributing to her party in the future. 'I am eager to work in so many other fields and do so many other things. I did India's Got Talent this year and last year. I hope that I'll be able to work for my party again,' she said.

Urmila Matondkar, who had lost from Mumbai North on a Congress ticket, quit the party in merely six months' time, and is now back to focussing on her acting career.

Actor Prakash Raj, who ran as an Independent from Bangalore Central seat in 2019, this year found himself being the centre of attraction for many parties in the South.

Raj who has been a strong critic of the Modi government, said he does not want to get into the 'trap', 'I guess they tried, (and) must have realised they were not rich enough (ideologically) to buy me.' he had posted on X.

There are others, such as retired army chief and Union Minister V K Singh, who represented the Ghaziabad seat in 2014 and 2019, but was dropped by the party from its list of candidates for the 2024 polls.

General Singh has since said that 'This decision was not easy for me, but I have taken it from the bottom of my heart. I want to take my energy and time in new directions, where I can serve my country in a different way.'

Some of the winners from 2019 have climbed up the political hierarchy, such as Kurukshetra MP Nayab Saini and Malkajgiri MP A Revanth Reddy, both of whom are now chief ministers of Haryana and Telangana, respectively.

Rajsamand MP Diya Kumari is now Rajasthan's deputy chief minister.

However, Rajyavardhan Rathore, a two-term MP from Jaipur Rural seat and a Union minister, is now a legislator in the Rajasthan assembly.

Some other actors, such as Jaya Prada and Raj Babbar, who lost the 2019 polls, are also missing in action five years later.

Ayushi Singh
Source: source image