Despite being aware of his poor health, a few leaders criticise the party for dropping the three-time PM's name from list of campaigners for BMC polls

If you sneak a peek at the Bharatiya Janata Party's list of star campaigners for BMC polls and elections in other councils in Maharashtra, there's a glaring omission. For the first time ever, the party has decided to shed the name of three-time prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Then and now: During the last general and assembly elections in 2009,
despite his poor health, Vajpayee's name featured at the top in the list of
star campaigners for BJP. File Pic

Interestingly, Vajpayee's name still features in the list for Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections begin early next month.

The exclusion of his name seems not to have gone down too well with some BJP leaders in the city unit.

"The name Atal Bihari Vajpayee itself is sufficient to glean votes for BJP. His name was there in the list during the 2009 elections. His name is still in the list for UP campaigning. So, why couldn't we do the same here? Even in the past we knew he won't be able to campaign, but his name was present," said an office-bearer of BJP in Mumbai.

Age matters
According to party insiders, the octogenarian leader is not in a condition to campaign.

"Atalji's name doesn't feature in the list of campaigners. He can't campaign because of his health," said party's state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.

However, during the last general and assembly polls held in 2009, despite his poor health, Vajpayee's name featured at the top in the list of campaigners for the party.

"I can't say what happened in 2009. We can only talk about the present. There's a difference between the years and Atalji's health then and now," said Bhandari.

A party leader said that BJP is being pragmatic.

"We all know that Atalji is not in a state where he can even give a sound bite. So why should we put his name in the list, when we are aware that he won't be able to campaign?" he maintained.
Who's who
LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Nitin Gadkari, Gopinath Munde, Rajnath Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Smriti Irani, Jaywantiben Mehta, all the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and many other senior leaders have been mentioned in the list.

Roadshow for Modi?
BJP, which thrives on Gujarati votes, wants to have a roadshow for Narendra Modi in the city before the BMC elections. The proposal has not been finalised yet. The saffron party has MLAs only from the Gujarati belt of the city -- Prakash Mehta from Ghatkopar, Tara Singh from Mulund, Gopal Shetty from Borivli, Mangal Prabhat Lodha from Malabar Hill and so on. "Just a week ago there were some unfavourable comments in Saamna against Gujarat. We in no way want to lose the seats as most of our voters are Gujaratis. Also with MNS chief Raj Thackeray praising Modi on every occasion, it does worry us, because it might affect the coalition if the votes swing in favour of outside parties where an alliance candidate is contesting. Hence, we are planning to have a roadshow for Modi," said a party leader.