With some 300 four-wheelers, most of them SUVs, this should be the longest convoy in any campaign in Uttarakhand. The 68-year-old candidate had lost his only previous assembly election, and is returning to politics after a break of 15 years. None of that, however, matters, though, to his team. “Grih Mantri ke samdhi hain,” stresses one campaigner.
Narayan Singh Rana, RSS swayamsevak, is the father of Sushma, who is married to Pankaj Singh, son of Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Rana is the BJP candidate from Dhanolti. His son, ace shooter Jaspal Rana, had contested the 2004 Lok Sabha poll on a BJP ticket and is vice president of Krida Bharti, an RSS unit for promoting sports that has Chetan Chauhan as president.
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At a public meeting in Parogi village overlooking the hills, Narayan Singh Rana underlines how he managed to get quick approval for a road, and stresses he will be able to get things done from the Centre quickly. “Samdhiji baithe hue hain,” he says.
Speaking to The Indian Express as he travels in a Ford Endeavor, Rana says local leaders’ demand got him the ticket, with the BJP replacing sitting MLA Mahaveer Singh.
Rana denies his links got him the ticket. “Grih mantriji ne ek bhi baat nahi boli (The home minister never said anything)… I go to him only because my daughter is in his home… I don’t want to take any political advantage… Rajnath Singhji has no role in this.”
He acknowledges “300 vehicles” accompany him:“I have not asked, I am not paying anyone… people are coming of their own.”
His main rival is independent Pritam Singh Panwar, who supported the Harish Rawat government in the assembly and was a member of his cabinet. The Congress fielded Manmohan Singh Mall but eventually declared its support for Panwar; Mall retains the symbol and remains in the fray.
The 75,000 voters include some 65 per cent Thakurs, whose vote Rana banks on. He won an MLC election in the 1990s and was sports & culture minister in the government of 2000. In 2002, he lost from Mussoorie.
He used to be with the ITBP and speaks of a bullet injury sustained in the 1971 war. “It him me here,” he points at his ribs.