Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been fielded again from Karnal as the Bharatiya Janata Party announced on Monday names of its 78 candidates for October 21 assembly polls in Haryana where the saffron party is seeking to retain power.
The party has given tickets to a number of noted sportspersons who had joined it in recent weeks with wrestler Babita Phogat, former Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh, Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt contesting from Dadri, Pehowa and Baroda respectively, its national general secretary Arun Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
He said the party's central election committee, which had met on Sunday, has repeated 38 MLAs and dropped seven of them for the polls to the 90-member assembly.
Khattar had won from Karnal seat in 2014.
Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala will contest from Tohana, Captain Abhimanyu from Narnod and Om Prakash Dhankar from Badli, Singh said.
Former Union minister and Jat leader Birender Singh's MLA wife will contest from Uchana Kalan, a seat she had won in 2014. Aditya Devilal, a grandson of Jat stalwart Devi Lal, has been fielded from Dabwali.
The candidates include nine women and two Muslims.
The last date for filing nominations is October 4.
With the opposition weakened by desertion among its ranks and shrinking support base, as seen in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is confident of returning to power with a bigger mandate.
Riding on 'Modi wave', the party had stormed to power in Haryana for the first time in 2014, winning 47 seats.
It had earlier been part of non-Congress governments as a junior partner and was never seen as a principal force.
Since coming to power it has consolidated its political position further in the state as its rivals, the Congress and the INLD, were hit by internal fight made worse by their repeated poor shot in different polls.
This coupled with "popular support" to the party following the Union government's decision to nullify Article 370 will further boost its chances in the polls, its leaders have said.
The BJP believes that Khattar, who was a surprise pick for the CM post after the 2014 win, enjoys a clean image after running a government "untainted" by any allegation of corruption. He is again the party's choice for the top post.
In 2014, the BJP had benefited from the consolidation of non-Jat voters behind it in a state long dominated by leaders from the community. The party's choice of Khattar, who is from Punjabi community, was apparently driven by it.
The party is, however, hopeful of winning over a significant section of Jats this time.