Rupendra Rana, one of the 19 men accused of lynching Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri in September 2015, will contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Rana spent two-and-a-half years in jail and is currently out on bail.

The president of the Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena, Amit Jani, on Sunday announced the decision to field Rana from Gautam Budh Nagar constituency in Noida.

“Rana is the perfect person to protect cows as he has spent two-and-a-half years in prison for the respect of gaumata [cows],” Jani told The Times of India. “Rather than making false promises of doing something for cows, Rana had proven his commitment to cows in 2015.”

Akhlaq was beaten to death in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in September 2015 following rumours that he and his family had killed a calf and eaten beef during Eid festivities. A forensic report in May said the meat found in his home was that of a cow or its progeny. Uttar Pradesh Police chief Javed Ahmed had said the new report “does not diminish the case as murder is an offence”.

The decision to field Rana came just days after the party announced that Shambhulal Regar, the man accused of killing a Muslim labourer on camera and burning his body in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand town on December 6, will contest the Lok Sabha elections on its ticket from Agra. Regar is currently lodged in Jodhpur jail.

Jani claimed his party was fielding Hindu-leaning candidates because it wanted a “pro-Hindu” government in India, Firstpost reported.

“If a person is accused in a murder case it does not mean he is a murderer,” Jani had said while announcing Regar’s nomination. “We want only Hindutva faces to contest elections on our party’s tickets and there can be nobody better than him.”