BJP fields Shimla's 'Chaiwala' in the state-capital's tight contest

Former ABVP activist, who turned tea-seller at Shimla's old bus stand to earn his livelihood in the 1980s, says he had no means to make a great career. He, thus, settled down to a small business but did not sever his relations with the BJP.

"Even in the rarest of my dreams, I never thought of myself as a ticket favourite to a place like Shimla -- the erstwhile summer capital of India, during the British era. It's my party and my leadership, which hand picked me and now I find myself in the poll fray," says Sanjay Sood, 57, BJP's choice for Shimla (Urban) assembly constituency.

Former ABVP activist, who turned tea-seller at Shimla's old bus stand to earn his livelihood in the 1980s, says he had no means to make a great career. He, thus, settled down to a small business but did not sever his relations with the BJP.

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But now, as he has become a candidate, Sood feels the business will be handled by his brother or his workers, who had been assisting him .

"I have told newspapers to finance my studies in the school and college as my family had no big means to send us (four brothers) to higher studies out of Shimla. I also worked in the student council for five years but had to stop that because of financial issues," he says recalling his early days in Shimla.

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When he set-up his tea-shop, it allowed him to share his family's financial burden.

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A former councillor of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, Sood has replaced party veteran and incumbent minister Suresh Bhardwaj, who has been shifted to Kasumpti -- a neighbouring Shimla constituency.

Bhardwaj is among two sitting ministers whom the party has shifted to other constituencies apparently to field new faces -- a record 24 chosen by the BJP to counter anti-incumbency.

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"I am grateful to my party for fielding a small worker like me from this prominent Shimla seat. I am in seventh heaven as it is truly a big honour for a small worker like me. I neither applied for the ticket nor lobbied for this. I don't know who really suggested my name. It's all BJP's own assessment about me, my prospects and the loyalty factor," he told India Narrative over phone.

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Asked about his association with the BJP , Sood says: "This is a party which has a history of encouraging grass-root workers. During my ABVP days I had worked closely with J.P. Nadda ji (who is now BJP's national president) but I never met any other senior leader barring those who were visiting the state for the party related matters."

Sood advises the media not to draw any comparison with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on him being a chaiwala .

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But, till the election campaign enters its crescendo, "Chai pe Charcha" will definitely remain alive as he will be locked in a triangular contest with two former Deputy Mayors of Shimla -- Harish Janartha (Congress) and Tikender Singh Panwar (CPM).

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