New Delhi, Oct. 20: The Delhi BJP’s leadership crisis spilled into public with claims that state unit chief Vijay Goel walked out of a meeting today to finalise the chief ministerial candidate, though he later denied the reports as “baseless”.
The alleged protest by Goel, who wants to be declared the candidate and was miffed that a rival was being considered, fuelled speculation he might step down.
The central leadership feels Harshvardhan, another of the state’s senior leaders, will be a better face. At the same time, it does not want to create any rift in the party with just over a month to go before the December 4 election.
According to unconfirmed reports, Goel expressed displeasure to Nitin Gadkari, the leader in charge of steering the party to the polls, and threatened to quit if Harshvardhan was preferred.
The BJP’s parliamentary board and election committee were scheduled to take a call today on the chief ministerial candidate.
“No decision was taken today on who will be the chief ministerial candidate. It will be done in the next couple of days,” said a senior BJP leader.
The leader confirmed that the leadership was in favour of Harshvardhan but suggested efforts were on to mollify Goel. “The top brass does not want to create any rift in the party. Efforts are on to win over Goel and keep him on board as factionalism will harm us,” the leader said.
Goel himself denied the reports tonight. “Since I am not a member of the central election committee of the BJP, I was not supposed to attend the meeting. Therefore, the reports in certain sections of the media regarding my walking out and threatening to resign are baseless,” he said.
Insiders said the leadership was wary of Goel’s threat last week that he would rebel if he wasn’t made the chief ministerial candidate.
“He can wreak a lot of damage and spoil our prospects. Many senior leaders feel that the party has failed to build on the momentum generated by Narendra Modi’s rally (in Delhi) on September 29,” a source said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh and Gadkari are said to be against picking Goel as he is “unacceptable” to his peers and the rank and file.
But they realise they can’t afford to leave him sulking at a time the party aims to unseat the three-term Congress government led by Sheila Dikshit. “Goel controls Delhi’s Vaish (the traders’ community he belongs to) votes and he can damage our prospects in the seats in Old Delhi where such votes count. So the leadership is trying hard to placate him,” the source said.