Dehradun, Jan 31 (PTI) Ticket distribution for the BJP in Uttarakhand for the coming Lok Sabha polls is likely to be a tough exercise, with party heavyweights vying with each other to stake claim on at least three of the five lower house seats in the state.Also Read - Kerala: LDF Wins 24 Of 42 Seats In Local Body By-Polls, UDF Bags 12

Seats for which there are more than one contenders within the party are Pauri, Tehri and Nainital, sources in the state BJP said on condition of anonymity. Also Read - ‘BJP After All Our Mosques; The Kashmir Files Responsible For Violence In Valley’: Mehbooba Mufti

Speculation about the party likely to gamble on a new face in Pauri started ever since sitting MP and former chief minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri expressed his disinclination to contest, saying older people should step aside making room for the young, they said. Also Read - Demolitions in Delhi: '80% of Delhi Illegal, Will You Destroy All of It', Arvind Kejriwal to BJP

In case Khanduri opts out of the race, his daughter and Yamkeshwar MLA Ritu Khanduri may be the party’s first choice to replace him as the party’s nominee from the seat, the sources said. However, party heavyweight and state tourism minister Satpal Maharaj is also lobbying for the seat for his wife Amrita, they said, adding, his contention will be hard to ignore.

The party may find it difficult to disappoint Satpal who wields considerable clout in the constituency having represented it in the Lok Sabha as a Congress MP from 2009 to 2014 when he joined the BJP.

His wife Amrita too was one of the nine Congress MLAs who had rebelled against Harish Rawat to close ranks with the BJP in the state assembly in 2016 reducing it to a minority. However, BJP insiders said there cannot be a safer bet for the party than Khanduri in Pauri whose popularity transcends all sections.

A retired Maj Gen, Khanduri brought military discipline to administration during his tenure. His stint both as the CM and a Minister in Vajpayee’s cabinet is remembered for his good work especially in the infrastructure sector.

Tehri is another seat where some intra party competition can come to the fore with sitting MP Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah in no mood to give up her claim on it and former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna also eying it. Bahuguna’s claim could be difficult for the party to turn down as he is said to have been the spearhead of the rebellion by Congress legislators against Harish Rawat and is still awaiting a suitable reward for what he had done.

Several party heavyweights are said to be vying for Nainital as well.

Held by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, the seat is located in Kumaon region and cabinet minister Yashpal Arya and Pradesh party president Ajay Bhatt are vying with each other to stake their claim on it.

However, sitting MP Koshiyari is the safest bet for the seat, party insiders said.

Koshiyariji can win the seat hands down. And if winnability is the sole criterion for selection of candidates as indicated by Thavar Chand Gehlot during his recent visit to the state no one can beat him. But if age factors etc. are considered other contentions could come into the picture, said a senior party leader not wishing to be named.

The prime minister inviting direct feedback from people on the popularity of the sitting MPs on Modi app has also made leaders lobbying for these seats hopeful about their prospects. However, Pradesh BJP president Ajay Bhatt said the selection of candidates is the sole prerogative of the central leadership.

“Candidate selection is the prerogative of the party’s central leadership. The claim of the sitting MPs on the seats they represent are firmly in place. If there are other contenders for the seats their names apart from the ones currently representing them will be forwarded to the central leadership which will take the final call,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a party function here.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.