NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the parliamentary seat he retained after winning two seats in the 2014 election.
There has been speculation that in the April-May national election, the Prime Minister may opt for another temple town, Puri, but top party sources say he is likely to stick with Varanasi.
PM Modi had, in an interview to news agency ANI, not confirmed or denied whether he would contest from the Odisha constituency. 'Media persons also should get some work,' he had said.
The BJP parliamentary board is apparently strongly in favour of a PM Modi encore in Varanasi. It is not clear, however, whether he will contest from a second seat and whether that seat will be Puri.
In 2014, PM Modi, 68, contested from Varanasi as well as Vadodara in his home state Gujarat. After winning both, he decided to retain the holy city in Uttar Pradesh.
In Varanasi, he won with a huge margin over his rivals Arvind Kejriwal and Congress's Ajay Rai.
The Puri speculation does confirm the BJP's determination to improve its score in states like Bengal, Odisha and its neighbour Andhra Pradesh.
The BJP's assessment is that having PM Modi as a candidate shored up its tally in Uttar Pradesh, where it won a staggering 71 of 80 seats in 2014. With recent disappointments in UP (by-polls) and other big northern states Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh - the party lost both to the Congress - the BJP sees more potential in Odisha, Bengal and other states in the region, say sources.
In both Bengal and Odisha, the BJP came second in key polls.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra is believed to have set his sights on Puri. Sources say he and many other spokespersons are keen on contesting the polls for a chance at graduating from TV studios to parliament.
The BJP's central election committee meeting this week may finalise candidates and seats.
Varanasi will vote on May 19, in the last round of seven-phase polls that start on April 11. The results will be declared on May 23.