Hectic lobbying has started in the ruling BJP in Uttarakhand for the seats where the party is likely to field new candidates, sources said.
Elections to the five Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttarakhand will be held in a single phase on April 11.
The two seats where speculation is on about the party changing its candidates are Pauri, Haridwar and Tehri, represented by former chief minister Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah respectively.
The possibility of the BJP, which has all the five seats in its kitty at present, changing its candidate in Pauri emerged after Khanduri sent feelers to the central leadership about his unwillingness to enter the fray due to health reasons.
Khanduri’s insistence on not contesting may leave the BJP with no choice but to go for a replacement, party sources said on the condition of anonymity.
Two-three names are doing the rounds as top contenders for the seat, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, state cabinet minister Satpal Maharaj or his wife Amrita Rawat and former director of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Ajay Kothiyal, who joined the party a couple of months ago.
Kothiyal is credited with doing a lot for the relief and rescue of affected people in the hill districts of Garhwal region after the natural calamity of 2013. Though they are all said to be angling for Pauri seat, party insiders feel the ticket must go to someone who can match the political stature of Khanduri.
If stature is a factor in the choice of a candidate for Pauri, Satpal Maharaj fits the bill, party sources said.
Another seat where speculation is rife about a change of candidate is Tehri.
When asked about the reasons, party sources said sitting MP Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah had done nothing in the past five years for her constituency and has the reputation of a non-performer.
Though Shah comes the erstwhile Tehri royal family and enjoys a loyal voter support base, winning the seat may be difficult for her this time, a party leader said.
Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna’s name is doing the rounds as the top contender for the seat.
Bahuguna who is credited with engineering a split in the previous Harish Rawat government in the state and causing its downfall in 2016 stands fair chances of getting a ticket from Tehri as a reward, party sources said.
There is also talk about a change of candidate in Almora as sitting MP and Union minister of state for textile Ajay Tamta is not considered a popular face.
“But the options for the party in Almora are limited as it is a reserved (SC) seat,” a senior party leader said.
When contacted state BJP spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan said selection of candidates was the sole prerogative of the party’s central leadership and whatever it says would be the final word.
Chauhan exuded confidence about retaining all the five seats in the state and returning to power at the Centre with an even bigger mandate than 2014. “There is a stronger wave in favour of Narendra Modi this time than in the last general elections, especially after the counter-terror offensive in Pakistan.”