New Delhi, Oct. 9: The Delhi BJP thinks it has “failed” to build on the “momentum” generated by Narendra Modi’s show on September 29.
The first signs that infighting may have resurfaced, after a phase of relative calm before Modi’s rally, were visible when Delhi’s seniormost BJP leader V.K. Malhotra signalled that he wished to contest the Assembly polls.
Malhotra, the Opposition leader in the Delhi Assembly, was told by the central leaders that he should “retire” and help in overseeing the preparations as part of a steering committee.
Malhotra was projected as the chief ministerial face in the 2008 elections but lost to the Congress’s Sheila Dikshit.
It is learnt that Malhotra has conveyed to party president Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, the central minder of Delhi, that if he is not accommodated, his son Ajay should get a ticket.
Ajay, a businessman, looks after Malhotra’s constituency, the upscale Greater Kailash. He has “registered his presence” with the voters, a source said.
Another manifestation of the inner churning was the BJP’s inability to hold a single meeting on ticket distribution although the leaders had said the process would kick in after Modi’s rally so that the contenders could begin working on the “wave of enthusiasm” he had purportedly unleashed.
Those opposed to the Delhi BJP president, Vijay Goel, blamed him for delaying the exercise. “He has ensured that no meeting will be called unless he is declared as the chief ministerial candidate,” a source said.
Rajnath, Gadkari and the others were so far disinclined to project Goel because he was “unacceptable” to his peers and to the rank and file. But sources said Goel had created an impression that he controls Delhi’s Vaish (Bania, the caste group he belongs to) votes and if he were given a wide berth, he could damage the BJP’s prospects in the seats in Old Delhi where Vaish votes count.
After taking over Delhi, Gadkari cracked the whip and told the factional leaders their performance in terms of delivering seats in their territories was under scrutiny.
The leaders, including Goel, Malhotra, Arati Mehra, Vijendra Gupta and Vijay Sharma, were told that if some of them did not get Assembly tickets, they could hope to contest the Lok Sabha poll provided they “cooperated”.
For a while, they submerged their differences and worked as a unit before Modi’s public meeting. After the event, Gadkari left for Nagpur to nurse the constituency from where he hopes to get a Lok Sabha ticket.
Sources said Gadkari outsourced the preparatory work to an IT specialist from Maharashtra who had assisted him in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls and was blamed for botching up candidates’ selection.
Another senior, Arun Jaitley, also involved in Delhi affairs, left for New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
Sushma Swaraj, a former Delhi chief minister, was spoken to but she reportedly refused to entangle herself in the state’s politics.
Modi too indicated he was yet unprepared to jump into the muddied waters although local leaders wondered how long he could keep off, considering his stakes in winning the next round of Assembly polls were as “high” as those of the incumbent and aspiring chief ministers.
It seems Rajnath too has not yet “spoken his mind”. “As is his wont, he will step in after the mess is sorted out,” a source remarked.