Jaspal Rana campaigns on Friday. (PTI)
Curtains for a prince, stage set for a shooting star.
The BJP is hoping marksman Jaspal Rana will hit bulls eye and wrest Tehri-Garhwal, a showpiece Uttarakhand seat that it held for over a decade and a half till 2006.
The 32-year-old appears confident and is quick to point out that as a sportsman, hes been groomed to win. I am a sportsman and firmly believe in winning.
Rana was picked over Manujendra Shah, son of Raja Manvendra Shah, who held the constituency till his death three years ago.
Manujendra lost the bypoll in 2007, and the chance to get the BJP ticket this time. But Rana is new royalty: his sister is married to BJP president Rajnath Singhs son.
Rana steers clear of the connection, saying hes in the fray as he believes in the strength of the party.
The BJPs agenda is development, that is my agenda, too. I dont care who my rivals are, says the Padma Shri marksman.
But Rana may do well to care. His main rival is the BSPs Munna Singh Chauhan, who has crossed over from the BJP. The other adversary is no lightweight, either: Congress sitting MP Vijay Bahuguna, who snatched the seat from the BJP, defeating prince Manujendra in the byelection two years ago.
If Rana, pitched as a youth icon, wins, he declares he will have to plunge headlong into another war: stop the migration of youths.
Because of unemployment, there has been huge migration from villages. It is important to do something to prevent the youth from leaving their native places.
But some see Rana himself as a migrant to Uttarakhand. Jaspal is a sporting star and an outsider. He is no match for the Shahs, says the Congresss Bahuguna.
The shooter has spent a lot of time in Delhi: he finished school there and then went to St Stephens. But he grew up in Mussoorie, Nainbagh and Dehra Dun, where he now runs a physical and vocational training institute.
This is the first time in 18 years when no one from the Shah family is in the fray, a prospect the Congresss Bahugana believes could work to his advantage.
The reason: some of the upper-caste votes that traditionally went to the Shahs could move to his party. Obviously, the absence of the royal family has made my task easy.
The BJP denies the royal familys absence from the scene will hurt its chances.
I dont deny that Maharaja Manvendra Shahs name is etched in the mind of the old voters but the new generation doesnt identify with the royal family. So we dont think this would impact the outcome, says Manohar Kant Dhyani, BJPs campaign head in Uttarakhand.
The state has five seats.But loyalists of the Shahs, who had contested as Congress nominees and as Independents since the first election in 1951 before becoming a strong force for the BJP in recent years, might disagree. Rana has his target cut out.