By Arun Pratap Singh
DEHRADUN, 21 Mar: BJP chose the day of Holi to declare its first list of 184 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. From Uttarakhand, there were hardly any surprises though Tirath Singh Rawat from Pauri and Ajay Bhatt from Nainital are new faces. The change in Uttarakhand was necessitated because veteran party leaders and the outgoing MPs Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and BC Khanduri had expressed their reluctance to fight the polls due to old age. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Haridwar, Ajay Tamta from Almora reserved constituency and Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah from Tehri have been repeated. All these names were being speculated in the media for past few days now though it was also being speculated that Tehri could also see a new candidate in form of either Vijay Bahuguna or Munna Singh Chauhan. The list of BJP candidates was released today at the BJP Headquarters by JP Nadda. With the BJP leading the race to declare its candidates, Congress is also expected to declare its candidates by tomorrow evening since the state goes for polling in the first phase itself on 11 April. Nominations have already begun and 25 March is the last day for filing nominations. Sources said that Mala Rajya Laxmi, Nishank and Tirath Singh Rawat were likely to file their nomination tomorrow while Ajay Bhatt and Ajay Tamta were likely to file nomination on 25 March. It is interesting to note that Tirath Singh Rawat is protégé of BC Khanduri who had played a crucial role in his appointment as Party’s state president while he was the CM. Rawat was otherwise considered to be a low profile leader. He is now likely to be up against his own mentor BC Khanduri’s son Manish Khanduri who had joined Congress and is likely to be fielded from Pauri by the Congress. Though, Uttarakhand has only five Lok Sabha seats, an interesting battle is on cards in the state. According to well placed sources in Congress, former CM Harish Rawat is now likely to be fielded from Nainital since despite being active in Haridwar for past several years, he appeared to have developed cold feet there and now considers Nainital to be safer. Sources also claim that had Koshiyari been repeated as the BJP candidate from Nainital, he would have preferred to try his luck from Haridwar. In the BJP, Koshiyari had lobbied for his political protégé Pushkar Singh Dhami but failed to convince the Party leadership. Sources in the Congress, claimed further that it could be either Pritam Singh from Tehri or even Vijay Bahuguna’s elder son Saket Bahuguna if the speculation really fructifies into reality. From Tehri, Kishore Upadhyay was also a contender for the seat though he had also lobbied for Vijaypal Sajwan. At the same time, Leader of the Opposition, Indira Hridayesh has lent her support to former MP Mahendra Pal Singh to contest from Nainital particularly after KC Singh Baba expressed reluctance to contest. Baba is also former MP from Nainital.