Preference to outsiders is poll strategy, he says

On his maiden visit here after having been declared party candidate in Lucknow, BJP chief Rajnath Singh downplayed the row over ticket distribution, saying that when the popularity of a party increased, there would be several claimants.

Mr. Singh, who himself is under fire over ticket distribution, including in Uttar Pradesh, said there was no discrimination.

On preference given to outsiders, he said it was an election strategy. “But the percentage of such candidates is nominal.”

Referring to Jaswant Singh’s entering the fray in Barmer, Rajasthan, as Independent after he was denied BJP ticket, Mr. Rajnath Singh said he was hopeful of the senior leader reconsidering his decision.

The BJP chief was at pains to emphasise that candidates were not finalised before the approval of the party’s Central Election Committee. This applied in his case too.

Mr. Singh sought to clear the air over his candidature in Lucknow, saying that a few months ago the sitting MP, Lalji Tandon, had called him up and asked him to contest from here. “I could not reply to Mr. Tandon as the decision on candidates is taken by the Central Election Committee.”

Mr. Tandon, who was sitting next, nodded his head in agreement, a stand at variance with his earlier reported statement that he would vacate his seat only for the prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

Describing Lucknow as the karmabhoomi of the former Prime Minister and its five-term MP, A.B. Vajpayee, Mr. Singh said if voted to power the BJP would fulfil “Atalji’s” dream of making Lucknow a biotech city and would link the Gomti and Sharda rivers.

Also present by his side was Shiv Kumar, a close aide of Mr. Vajpayee.

Mr. Kumar was making a public appearance after a decade.