LUCKNOW: Even before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) takes on the opposition in Uttar Pradesh in the general elections, it is fighting a battle within.

The BJP versus BJP battle is being fought in over a dozen constituencies where the party has denied tickets to sitting MPs. These MPs and their supporters are not only holding demonstrations in their constituencies but also writing letters of protest to the party high command.

While two BJP MPs Ashul Varma, from Hardoi, and Shyama Charan Gupta, from Allahabad, have joined the Samajwadi Party after being denied tickets, Ashok Dohre has joined the Congress.

The BJP, so far, has denied tickets to 16 sitting MPs and changed the constituencies of four MPs.

The MPs who have been denied tickets include Satyapal Saini (Sambhal) , Nepal Singh (Rampur), Rajesh Diwakar (Hathras) , Chaudhary Babu Lal (Fatehpur Sikri) , Krishna Raj (Shahjahanpur) , Anshul Varma (Hardoi) , Anju Bala (Misrikh), Ashok Dohre (Etawah) , Dr M M Joshi (Kanpur) , Uma Bharti (Jhansi) , Shyama Charan Gupta (Allahabad), Priyanka Rawat (Barabanki) , Savitri Bai Phule (Bahraich) , Rajesh Pandey (Kushinagar) , Kalraj Misra (Deoria) and Bharat Singh (Ballia).

The four MPs whose constituencies have been changed include Ms Maneka Gandhi (from Pilibhit to Sultanpur), Ram Shankar Katheria (from Agra to Etawah). Varun Gandhi ( from Sultanpur to Pilibhit) and Virendra Singh Mast ( from Bhadohi to Ballia).

BJP MP from Ballia Bharat Singh has shot off an angry letter to the party president. He has leveled serious accusations against Virendra Singh Mast who has replaced him as the party candidate.

“I am paying the price of being an honest and committed party worker,” he told this correspondent.

Supporters of Chaudhary Babulal who has been denied ticket from Fatehpur Sikri are holding demonstrations and making it uncomfortable for the new BJP candidate Raj Kumar Chahar.

Sitting MP Priyanka Rawat from Barabanki wept in public after being denied ticket and her supporters urged her to contest as an independent.

One of her supporters said, “The BJP is finally showing its true colors. The party has denied maximum tickets to Dalit MPs. Priyanka Rawat, Anshul Varma, Krishna Raj, Anju Bala, Ashok Dohre are among the Dalit leaders who have been denied tickets.”

If the BJP is facing charges of being anti –Dalit on one hand, it is also being accused of being anti-Brahmin.

“Senior leaders like Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalraj Misra have been denied tickets even though they are physically fit and politically active. A party that does not respect seniors will not get support from workers either,” said Krishna Kumar Tiwari, a young party worker form Kanpur.

He said that he will lead party workers from Kanpur and request Dr Joshi to contest as an independent from Varanasi. “It will be our responsibility to make him win the election,” he said.

The party leadership, though aware of the simmering discontent in party ranks, tries to downplay the issue. No visible steps have been taken to tackle the anger in party cadres.

Deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya said, “ These are teething troubles which occur in every election. Our cadres are disciplined and will fall in line. Declining tickets to some have been done in party interests and everyone understands this.”

A senior party functionary, however, said that the prevailing resentment could cost the party dear. “Our leaders are not realizing the extent of discontent over ticket distribution and this could have an adverse impact if the problem is not addressed immediately,” he said.