Of the 155 names in BJP’s second list for 2017 UP polls on Sunday, the candidature of one attracted maximum attention-- that of union home minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj, 40, from Noida.
Despite buzz around his name before each election since 2002, Pankaj’s wait kept getting longer, 14 years to be precise.
On the hindsight, it was a good wait as he now gets to contest from a BJP bastion where party candidate Vimla Batham had won by nearly 59000 votes in the 2014 by-poll. “It’s a dream seat for any BJP candidate,” a BJP leader said.
Batham, 64, an industrialist who had met senior leaders, including BJP chief Amit Shah before the announcement of second list to push her case, was obviously disappointed. “I wanted to contest but since the party made a decision we will support the party nominee,” she told HT on phone.
From 2002 to 2016, Pankaj rose through party ranks in UP but his electoral debut didn’t happen for one reason or the other. On Monday, Pankaj appeared relieved. “I am thankful to the party leadership for reposing faith in me,” he said.
Pankaj has been tasked by the party with several key assignments, like youth convocations in poll-bound UP. In 2007 when his father was the BJP chief, Pankaj’s name was finalized from Chiraigaon assembly seat of Varanasi by the BJP Parliamentary Board that included one of the party’s tallest leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Pankaj, however, pulled himself out of the electoral fray after his father reportedly took the moral high ground saying as party chief he won't clear his son's candidature.
“Despite being cleared by Vajpayeeji, a note of dissent was put up by Rajnath on his son’s candidature. It's there on record,” a BJP leader close to Rajnath said.
Pankaj's replacement lost Chiraigaon as the BJP was unable to stitch a pact with Bharatiya Samaj Party that commanded loyalty of OBC voters in several east UP seats, including Chiraigaon.
Shortly after, Pankaj was named the state chief of UP BJP’s youth wing. He however resigned on his father’s advice following opposition from party cadre.
In 2008, Pankaj was appointed a member of the state working committee and in 2010 appointed the secretary of UP BJP.
In January 2012, a few UP BJP functionaries including Ashwini Tyagi, Daya Shankar Singh, Santosh Singh revolted against Pankaj’s promotion as UP BJP general secretary.
However, the revolt died down as Pankaj strengthened himself within the party organization finding favour with successive UP BJP chiefs from Ramapati Ram Tripathi, Surya Pratap Shahi, LK Bajpai and now Keshav Prasad Maurya. In 2012 UP polls, Pankaj’s name again surfaced from Varanasi, this time from the Varanasi (north) seat. He missed again.
This time the buzz in the BJP circles was that Pankaj couldn’t make it following opposition from then Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi. Rajnath, however, quickly denied this version. “There is no truth in this and I wish to state that there was no opposition from Joshiji over Pankaj’s candidature,” he had said.
Shortly ahead of the second BJP list, Keshav Maurya had said that those children of party leaders who have put in 10 years or more in the party would be considered for ticket. Pankaj qualified easily.