The BJP has decided to field the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Tehri Garhwal, Manjuvendra Shah, in the coming by-election to the Tehri Lok Sabha seat in Uttarakhand that fell vacant after his father Manvendra Shah died recently. The by-poll is scheduled to be held along with the Assembly elections on February 21.
Manjuvendra , who has no previous experience in politics, beat India's ace shooter Jaspal Rana in the keen contest for the BJP ticket as the party leadership reckoned him to be their best bet for the by-poll. He is expected to benefit from the tremendous goodwill that his father, the late Maharaja, enjoyed among the electorate. He had won a record eight times from the Tehri constituency since 1957.
According to top sources in the party, Manjuvendra, an industrialist, met LK Advani and BJP chief Rajnath Singh on Friday and it was conveyed to him that he had been selected to contest the Tehri by-election. A formal announcement of his candidature will, however, be made in a couple of days.
Significantly, while Jaspal Rana lost in the race for the by-poll, his father, former state minister Narayan Singh Rana whose daughter is married to Rajnath Singh's son, is also stated to be struggling for a ticket to contest from the Vikas Nagar Assembly seat. He was defeated in the Mussoorie constituency that he contested last time.
Meanwhile in the first list of 51 candidates for the Uttarakhand elections finalised late evening, the BJP chose to field again all but one of its 19 sitting MLAs besides several others who had lost in the last polls.
Prominent among these was octogenarian Nityanand Swamy, who became the first chief minister of the hill state after it was formed in 2000 and was defeated in the 2002 elections. His successor in the chief ministerial chair, state BJP president Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, was among the other contestants whose names were cleared by the party's central election committee in the presence of top leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
Some other prominent candidates who were chosen to contest the election were Leader of Opposition in State Assembly Matbar Singh Kandari, Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', Harbans Kapoor and Kedar Singh Phonia.
Email Hemendra Singh Bartwal: hsbartwal @hindustantimes.com