A tea shop owner in Himachal Pradesh’s Shimla has replaced BJP minister Suresh Bhardwaj, who has contested the Shimla Urban seat four times.
Mr Bhardwaj will now contest the Assembly polls from Kasumpti after the party’s candidate Sanjay Sood, who runs a tea shop in Shimla, got the ticket to contest from Shimla Urban.
Speaking to the ANI, Mr Sood said, “I am extremely grateful that BJP made me its candidate to contest from a hot seat like Shimla Urban. I am on seventh heaven as it is a big honour for a small worker like me. I would say that it was a good decision to work for the BJP.”
He said he belonged to a very poor family and has been running his tea shop since 1991. “Prior to this, I used to sell newspapers at a bus stand. Despite being from a poor family, the sense of service remained in the heart,” he said.
He credited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for his education and culture study. He said selling newspapers helped him pay his college fees and that was the time when he got the opportunity to work in the “Vidyarthi Parishad” (ABVP), the student wing of RSS.
“I worked in student council for five years but had to stop that because of financial issues. I could not work for it any further. Later, I worked as a Medical Representative for two years, after which I founded this tea shop in 1991. This helps me feed my family and pay for their expenses,” he said.
“I do not come from a political background but have a very high spirit for service, and that was the reason why I sat at the booth for Balakram Kashyap of the Janata Party in 1977, while I was in school. Since the formation of the BJP in 1980 I have been working for it,” he said.
Mr Sood said he was the party’s General Secretary of Shimla Mandal Urban before becoming its vice president. Later, he also became the party’s media in-charge for the district.
“While doing so (role of media in-charge), the party gave me a ticket and I became the Councillor of Shimla Municipal Corporation twice. Then I became the president of Shimla unit,” he added.
“Today I feel proud that the party has declared me its candidate from Shimla. I will not be able to pay off my party,” he added.
On being asked if there was any resentment among party workers on his candidacy, he replied, “I have a simple point that anyone who is with the Lotus flower (BJP’s election symbol) cannot be angry. It hurts only momentarily. It is natural to be disappointed if you don’t get what you want. I will meet all of them. I have full faith that eventually we all will work for lotus and win the Shimla seat.”
Reacting to the surprising change of candidature, BJP minister Suresh Bhardwaj said, “In Himachal Pradesh, it is not customary to change one seat and fight in another seat. Surely it is strange.”
Mr Bhardwaj has been working for BJP since 1980 and was also in Janata Party before that. Kasumpti is also not far away from Shimla, and nor is it untouched, he added.
He further said, “Kasumpti is a mixed region and it would have been better if this shuffle could have taken place with prior information that someone like me would have to contest from here, especially when there is not much time available.”
He said even if one has to do a little shifting in any place, there is bound to be some regret, but since it is the decision of the party, it is paramount.