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RS polls: Consensus candidate likely to elude BJP in Uttarakhand

As many as six party leaders are eyeing the party ticket to contest the March 23 poll for the lone Rajya Sabha seat

dehradun Updated: Mar 04, 2018 21:13 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
RS polls,March 23,Shyam Jaju
The election will be held on March 23 and BJP candidate will be elected unopposed on the sheer brute strength of numbers in the state assembly.(Mohd Zakir/HT File)

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s plan to field a consensus candidate in the election to the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Uttarakhand may not materialize with as many as six leaders throwing their hat in the ring for the party ticket.

The election will be held on March 23 and BJP candidate will be elected unopposed on the sheer brute strength of numbers in the state assembly. Congress has only 11 MLAs in the 70-member assembly and has announced that it will not contest the poll.

BJP brass is looking for a consensus candidate as it doesn’t want to fuel groupism in the faction-ridden party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, according to insiders. However, the number of those lobbying for the Rajya Sabha seat is growing fast.

This problem of plenty forced the BJP’s state in-charge Shyam Jaju to make a flying visit to Dehradun on Saturday. Party insiders said he was deputed by the high command to gauge the party workers’ mood ahead of the RS poll.

“His visit had been necessitated owing to the growing number of party heavyweights lobbying for the lone Rajya Sabha seat,” a senior state level BJP office bearer said.

The buzz is that Jaju himself is one of the aspirants. The party could also field a Dalit or a woman candidate with an eye on the next year’s general elections. Earlier, the names of two heavyweights — BJP state unit chief Ajay Bhatt and former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna — were doing the rounds. Bahuguna along with nine other former Congress MLAs had joined the saffron party ahead of the 2017 assembly elections. Now, names of several other heavyweights have been added to the list of aspirants. Those lobbying for the coveted position “also include” National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, and BJP’s national media head Anil Baluni. They both hail from Uttarakhand.

Besides, party national secretary Tirath Singh Rawat and former state unit chief and former union minister Bachhi Singh Rawat are also looking to enter the Upper House. Tirath Singh had openly revolted against the party high command after it decided not to repeat him from Chaubattakhal in the 2017 assembly election and field former Congress heavyweight Satpal Maharaj.

State BJP general secretary Naresh Bansal admitted that during his visit Jaju interacted with party workers to assess their aspirations for the Rajya Sabha seat. “On the basis of his assessment, he (Jaju) will forward a panel of candidates to party’s central parliamentary board that will finalise the name,” Bansal said.

A BJP leader, with close connection with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) said selecting a consensus candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat would not be easy for the party top brass.

According to him, the nine leaders who joined the BJP with him, are backing Bahuguna for the Rajya Sabha seat but the RSS is opposed to his candidature. “Besides, during their interaction with Jaju, state BJP workers gave a clear hint that any parachute candidate would not be tolerated,” said the BJP leader adding, the sentiment could come in the way of the party brass’s probable move to get its candidate elected.

The buzz is that one of the Union ministers such as Ravi Shankar Prasad and Dharmendra Pradhan, who will soon be completing their term in the Rajya Sabha, could also be re-elected from the state. “We are keeping all our options open, so anything is possible. Wait till the candidate is announced for the Rajya Sabha seat,” Bansal said.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 21:13 IST