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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Age, caste equations weighed heavy on Shanta Kumar’s mind

The 84-year-old BJP leader Shanta Kumar, who is credited with building up the party in Himachal Pradesh, was in the race for ticket from the politically significant Kangra parliamentary constituency before he opted out of poll fray on Saturday.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 25, 2019 14:54 IST
Naresh K Thakur
Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Dharamshala
lok sabha elections 2019,shanta kumar,bjp leader shanta kumar
Senior BJP leader and Kangra MP Shanta Kumar has been dropped by the party from its list of candidates for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. (HT File Photo )

As his exit marks the end of an era in politics of Himachal Pradesh, it were age and caste equations that weighed heavy on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Shanta Kumar’s mind.

The 84-year-old war horse, who is credited with building up the party in the hill-state, was in the race for ticket from the politically significant Kangra parliamentary constituency before he opted out of poll fray on Saturday.

This did not come as a surprise as the word was already out that the BJP is likely to drop the leaders who have crossed the age of 75—the bar set by the saffron party to be inducted in government and which has now been extended to contesting elections.

Shanta Kumar’s fate was almost sealed when the BJP, in its first list of candidates, eased out several of its old guards including party patriarch LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and BC Khanduri. However, the decision on Shanta, who had won the Kangra Lok Sabha seat with a record margin of 1.7 lakh votes, was delayed as the party was scouting for a formidable candidate to replace him.

Shanta Kumar himself admitted that the age criteria set by the party led him to quit electoral politics. “I was not willing to contest and had expressed my wish to the party months ago but was told to wait,” Shanta told HT on Sunday.

The former union minister said that last week before taking a final call on tickets, the party apprised him of its decision that leaders who have crossed the age bar should not contest the Lok Sabha polls.

Also Read | Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP list points to generational shift

Apart from age, another factor that came into play was the caste equation. The BJP replaced Shanta Kumar with his protégé Kishan Kapoor, who is the state food and civil supply minister.

While Shanta is a brahmin, Kapoor belongs to the tribal Gaddi community, which has significant population in the region.

Out of 17 assembly segments of Kangra and Chamba districts which form the Kangra parliamentary constituency, Gaddis dominate at least 10 assembly segments.

Also, the Gaddi community has been a vote bank of the BJP for quite long. The semi-nomadic tribe this time had been demanding the party to give Lok Sabha ticket to a leader from the community.

The clamour intensified after Shanta Kumar’s statements which did not go down well with the community. Deciding to play the caste gambit, the BJP decided to drop Shanta and replace him with Kapoor.

First Published: Mar 25, 2019 14:54 IST

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