The BJP overlooked several high-profile claimants and picked a long-time party worker as Noida candidate Tuesday, releasing a list of contestants for the September 13 bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.
The omission of Pankaj Singh, son of union home minister Rajnath Singh, seen as the frontrunner for the seat, surprised many. The party instead showed faith in 62-year-old Vimla Batham, an industrialist who has been with the BJP for 25 years.
A section of the party sees it as yet another example of declining clout of Rajnath, the former BJP chief. In denying ticket to Pankaj, the party was sending out a bigger political message, they feel. “With the change of guard at the top, Rajnath Singh’s influence within the party has decreased,” a party leader said.
A reference perhaps also to the home minister’s reportedly diminished role in the appointment of senior officers.
But, not everyone agrees. “Given that most of the party workers favoured a local candidate, Pankaj must have lost out being an outsider,” a senior UP party leader said on condition of anonymity.
Pankaj splits his time between Delhi and the state capital Lucknow.
The Samajwadi Party fielded a woman and that, too, could have weighed on the party, the leader said.
Pankaj, said sources, was keen on Noida, a Delhi suburb, as the BJP is believed to enjoy good support among urban voters. In the 2012 state polls, too, he was a contender but failed to make the cut.
“The BJP will contest the election on the agenda of development,” said Batham, who is the vice-president of western-UP unit of the BJP.
The Congress has fielded Rajendra Awana, while 35-year-old Kajal Sharma, an MBA, will be the SP candidate. The Bahujan Samaj Party has decided not to contest the bypolls for 11 assembly and one Lok Sabha seat.