The 2019 Lok Sabha election has been a decisive victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, who won a total of 352 parliamentary seats out of 542. Across party lines, however, the Lok Sabha will seat 300 new members this year – first-time Members of Parliament who will shape the country’s laws and policies over the next five years.
Some of these first-time MPs – like the BJP president Amit Shah – are already powerful figures in Indian politics. Others have been controversial right from the time they were nominated, like BJP’s Bhopal winner Pragya Thakur, a Hindutva hardliner and an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case.
Some newly-elected MPs, like Delhi winners Gautam Gambhir and Hans Raj Hans, were celebrities before they joined politics. Many others, however, have emerged from humble backgrounds and have won unexpected victories in the 2019 election.
As they prepare to be sworn in as new members of the 17th Lok Sabha, here are some important first-time MPs to watch out for:
Amit Shah may be a first-time MP in the Lok Sabha, but as the BJP president and the chairperson of the National Democratic Alliance, he has already been one of the most powerful men in national politics for the past five years. The son of a Gujarati businessman, Shah grew up in Mehsana and was involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh from a young age.
He joined the BJP in 1986 and won his first seat in the state Assembly in 1997, at the age of 33. He served as an MLA for 20 years and became the Home Minister of Gujarat before he was finally nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2017.
Since the early 1990s, Shah worked closely with Modi and played a key role as a strategist for BJP’s rise in Gujarat and eventually across India. Along the way, he also became one of the key accused in the encounter-killing cases of arrested criminals Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat. In 2015, the a special CBI trial court acquitted Shah in the case. The case was once again back in the news in 2017, when the circumstances leading to the death of BH Loya in 2014, one of the judges examining the case, became the subject of media scrutiny. In 2018, a trial court in Mumbai acquitted all those accused of killing Sheikh.
Karur, Tamil Nadu
Jothimani S, elected from the Karur constituency, is the only woman MP from the Congress party in Tamil Nadu. The 43-year-old author has a Masters in Philosophy from Annamalai University and is known for her short stories.
The daughter of a farmer in Karur district’s Periya Thirumangalam village, Jothimani hails from a humble background. She entered politics when she was 22 years old and became an active member of the Indian Youth Congress. She served as Indian Youth Congress national coordinator for Kerala in 2008 and as its general secretary from 2009 to 2012.
Jyothimani defeated four-time MP and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai with a margin of 4,20,546 votes. This is a significant victory, since she had also fought against Thambidurai in the 2014 general election and lost.
Little-known before March, Ramya Haridas emerged as one of the most popular Congress politicians in Kerala when she won the Alathur Lok Sabha constituency by over one lakh votes on May 23. The 32-year-old Dalit woman had to fight against heavy odds – including sexist barbs and character assassination attempts – as she defeated two-time incumbent PK Biju in a constituency known as a citadel of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She is the only woman elected to Lok Sabha from Kerala in 2019, and the second Dalit woman MP from Kerala so far.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Congress decided to field Haridas from Alathur, since she was a block panchayat leader in faraway Kozhikode district. But her campaign was successful not only because of her powerful oratory but also because of her singing skills – Haridas frequently sang folk songs while interacting with voters. When she won the Alathur seat, some Malayalam newspaper headlines claimed “Ramya sang her way to victory” – a Malayalam phrase for an easy victory.
Krishnanagar, West Bengal
Mahua Moitra first drew national attention when videos of her showing the middle finger to television news anchor Arnab Goswami went viral. An investment banker who grew up in Kolkata, went to college in the United States and worked at JP Morgan for several years, Moitra was an unlikely candidate in the rural Krishnanagar constituency in Nadia district. But she contested as an All India Trinamool Congress candidate and managed to defeat her BJP opponent – former footballer Kalyan Chaubey – by a margin of more than 65,000 votes.
Moitra, 43, has claimed she was interested in politics right from the time she was 18 years old. She briefly joined the Congress in 2008 and moved to the Trinamool Congress in 2010. In 2016, she won the Karimpur Assembly seat in Nadia district, defying critics who believed she was too urban to succeed in a rural constituency. She is also a spokesperson and general secretary of the Trinamool Congress.
Bangalore South, Karnataka
At the age of 28, Tejasvi Surya will be the BJP’s youngest MP in the 17th Lok Sabha. He has drawn a lot of attention since his nomination and has been repeatedly referred to as a “millennial candidate”. As a lawyer, Surya has represented BJP leaders like BS Yeddyurappa and Pratap Simha as well as other BJP supporters in cases against them.
Surya has been a BJP Yuva Morcha leader and former secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He also headed the Karnataka BJP IT cell. Surya is articulate in English and Kannada and vocal about his unqualified support and admiration for Modi. In fact, in a video that was widely circulated shortly after his nomination, he is seen making a speech saying “If you are with Modi you are with India, if you are not with Modi you are anti-India. That’s it.” He had also earlier tweeted that he dreads the day that the Parliament passes a women’s reservation bill, a tweet that he deleted after his candidacy was announced.
Cricketer-turned BJP politician Gautam Gambhir will enter Parliament after winning the East Delhi seat by a margin of nearly four lakh votes. The 37-year-old’s campaign was muddled with controversy because of the bitter battle he fought with his rival Atishi Marlena of Aam Aadmi Party. She accused him of spreading a derogatory pamphlet about her, but Gambhir denied it. There were also accusations that he used a body double to campaign for him but it remained unclear if that was done to mislead people.
Hans Raj Hans
North West Delhi
Hans Raj Hans was famous as a Punjabi Sufi singer before he joined politics. As a BJP candidate, he won the North West Delhi seat by a margin of more than five lakh votes. The 57-year-old, was picked at the last minute by BJP to replace former MP Udit Raj, who left the party and joined Congress after the ruling party denied him a ticket.
While the singer will enter Parliament for the first time, he has been politically ambitious. In 2009, he contested Lok Sabha elections from Jalandhar, Punjab on a Shiromani Akali Dal ticket, but was defeated. After he resigned from the party in 2014, he joined Congress in 2016, and jumped to BJP later that year.
Soon after his candidature was announced, he sought to claim in an interview that unlike earlier when terrorists used to get away after attacking targets in India, the decisive leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taught them a lesson. When reminded about the attack at a CRPF camp in Pulwama, he alluded to the Balakot airstrikes and asked why such a response was never given before by India. When reminded about 1971 and the role of the Indian army that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, he said he did not know much about that since he was very young then.
Imtiaz Jaleel is one of two All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha and a first-time MP from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. A former journalist, Jaleel had contested and won from Aurangabad in the 2014 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, and has been a popular figure in that city since.
He was almost denied a ticket as his party decided to contest Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra in alliance with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Ambedkar’s party announced seats across Maharashtra, and initially decided to field retired Justice BG Kolse-Patil from Aurangabad, instead of Jaleel. After Jaleel threatened to contest as an independent candidate, the VBA backed down and Jaleel was nominated.
Jaleel defeated senior Shiv Sena leader Chandrakant Khaire by a narrow margin of almost 4,500 votes. It was the closest margin in the state.
(Inputs from Aarefa Johari, Nayantara Narayanan, S Sentalir, TA Ameerudheen, Vijayta Lalwani and Mridula Chari.)