Chandigarh: Former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar on Friday said he will not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The four-time BJP MP from Kangra, though, didn’t call it quits and indicated that he will continue to work for the party.
Himachal Pradesh BJP president Satpal Satti, who is in Delhi to finalise the names of candidates for the state, told News 18 that the party will replace its candidate in Kangra.
The strongest candidate for Kangra, however, himself chose to abstain from contesting, saying he would have preferred to ‘make someone else contest.’
“Main chunav ladna nahi chahta, ladana chahta hun (I don’t want to contest but want to make someone else contest in the elections),” the BJP veteran had been reiterating for past few days. He though maintained, “party jo bhi zimedaari degi, wo puri karunga (Whatever responsibility the party bestows upon me, I will fulfil that).”
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur met Kumar in Delhi at the latter’s residence on Thursday and Friday.
Though it is unclear as to what transpired during the closed door meets, reports suggest that the two leaders might have discussed about the next probable candidate from Kangra.
Kumar, 84, is the founding father of the BJP in the state. He made a comeback in 2014 when the party’s then MP Rajan Sushant left the BJP for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Kumar had almost hung up his boots then, but was exhorted by the central leadership to take up the challenge.
In 2014, Kumar defeated his nearest rival, Chander Kumar of the Congress, with a huge margin of 1.7 lakh votes. Chander Kumar had earlier defeated Shanta Kumar in 2004 by a margin of 18,000 votes.
Kumar wasn’t made the minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government in 2014 as he surpassed the upper limit of 75 years set by the PM for the council of ministers.
Recently, asked if he might be denied a ticket owing to his old age, he had said, “Main 85 saal ka jawan hun, party jahan se bhi kahegi wahin se chunav ladunga (I am 85-year-old youth, I will contest from anywhere the party asks me too).”
After the former chief minister’s exit from the Kangra political scene, names of state cabinet ministers Kishan Kapoor and Vipin Pramar are doing the rounds as the probables from Kangra, a seat where caste is a key factor.
Kangra is dominated by Rajputs and Brahmins. Besides it also houses around 3.5 lakh-strong tribal Gaddi community- a shepherd tribe.
Vipin Parmar is considered to be Kumar’s protégé and reports say that the former union minister might use his influence to vouch for him.
Tribal Morcha national president of the BJP, Trilok Kapoor, who is a Gaddi leader has also thrown his hat in the ring.
Notably, after the Godhra riots in 2002, Kumar had raised his voice against then Gujarat Chief minister Narendra Modi. He had also kicked storm in 2015 when wrote a letter to the Central leadership demanding that a Lokpal be appointed in the party as “scams in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have forced hang our heads in shame.”