A vendor sleeps on a pile of onions at a wholesale market in Navi Mumbai on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 24: In its battle for votes, the BJP is banking on a “pricey” vegetable.
Soaring onion prices in the capital has raised hopes within the faction-riven party, which hopes to laugh its way to power after the December 4 elections, leaving Congress chief minister Sheila Dikshit with no option but to blink back tears.
If the contest pans out the way the BJP is hoping it does, history will be repeating itself: a sudden spurt in onion prices had played a key role in ensuring the defeat of the Sushma Swaraj-led BJP government in Delhi in 1998.
“The pricey onion is making every Delhiite cry. After the elections, however, only Sheila Dikshit will shed tears under the impact of onion and people will have the last laugh,” said BJP in-charge for Delhi Nitin Gadkari, hinting that the party was banking on the vegetable that makes even seasoned eyes smart.
Onion is now selling between Rs 70 and Rs 100 a kilo in the retail market. Prices of other vegetables are also high. In Calcutta, too, onion prices are high — Rs 75-80 a kilo.
The former BJP president’s comments came at yet another try by the party today to bring its chief ministerial face, Harsh Vardhan, and Delhi unit chief Vijay Goel on the same platform.
“We welcome the decision of the party’s supreme parliamentary board to name Harsh Vardhanji as the chief ministerial candidate. Now our target is to rid Delhi of the corrupt Congress,” Goel said, Gadkari and Harsh Vardhan by his side.
The BJP had yesterday named Harsh Vardhan its candidate for chief minister, preferring the 58-year-old ENT surgeon over Goel who had been lobbying to get the status.
Although Goel asserted his commitment to the party in public, party sources said internal rivalries could hurt the BJP on the ground. Which is why the party is banking on the onion, in particular, and the general rise in prices of other essential items.
Chief minister Dikshit, who said her government was doing everything in its power to lower the onion prices, today met agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
Gadkari said the Delhi government was blaming the Centre for the rise in prices while the central government was blaming the “states and the rains. The Congress is in power both at the Centre and the state and they both are sitting happily as the people suffer”.
Dikshit, a three-term chief minister, also has to contend with the challenge from the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that appears to be attracting the attention of voters with its strong anti-corruption message.
The BJP has been ignoring the AAP, repeatedly stressing that the Congress is its only adversary. The party hopes this tactic would lead voters to believe that it’s a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP, while the AAP is just a spoiler.
Still, that has not stopped the BJP from coming up with populist promises like 30 per cent reduction in electricity rates. The AAP has been campaigning against high power tariffs in the capital.
Some BJP leaders, however, say this “ignore AAP” strategy may not work as surveys have shown that the Kejriwal’s party could corner a significant portion of the anti-incumbency vote. This section feels Delhi could for the first time see a three-cornered fight.
The Election Commission has asked the Delhi government to stall the process of identifying beneficiaries under the food security scheme till December 5, by when the poll process in the national capital will be over. The commission said continuing with the process would be a violation of the election code of conduct, which is in force.