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Eye on throne, BJP shy of Delhi chair rush

New Delhi, Dec. 8: The BJP today said it would not stake claim to form the government in Delhi, apparently unwilling to be seen poaching on rivals just months before the general election.

The way Delhi’s hung Assembly is poised, the BJP can gain a majority only by engineering defections.

“We do not believe in horse-trading. We do not have a majority; we will not attempt to form a government in Delhi,” the BJP’s declared chief ministerial candidate, Harshvardhan, told a news channel late this evening.

This position had apparently been firmed up after several meetings. Earlier in the evening, party president Rajnath Singh had told reporters the BJP “will form the government in all the four states” without explaining how it would marshal the numbers in Delhi.

The BJP has emerged the largest party in the 70-member Delhi Assembly with 31 seats, while ally Shiromani Akali Dal has won one. That leaves the allies four short of majority, with just one Independent for possible company.

One seat belongs to the Janata Dal (United), with which the BJP has just had an acrimonious parting in Bihar. The Aam Aadmi Party, which has 28 seats, has declared it will sit in the Opposition. The remaining eight are with the BJP’s arch-enemy, the Congress.

A top BJP source said an “eager beaver” approach won’t help at this stage. Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas has already alleged on TV that unnamed Delhi BJP officials had got “in touch” with some of his party’s candidates even before the votes had been counted.

The BJP believes this was Vishwas’s way of trying to pre-empt possible poaching. The high moral ground the Aam Aadmi Party has taken and the wave of popular credibility it is riding has made the BJP’s job “tough”, a source said.

“(Aam Aadmi Party chief) Arvind Kejriwal has never been cordial with the BJP. He has always emphasised that upholding secularism is as important to him as fighting corruption. He is not going to revise his position,” a BJP source said.

“We are not getting into the business of breaking parties because this will tar our image before the Lok Sabha polls. Our experience with dabbling in this kind of mess was bad in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, and created a crisis of credibility.”

A proposal to anoint Shoaib Iqbal, Janata Dal (United) winner from Matia Mahal, as the Assembly Speaker has not found favour with anyone in the BJP. Iqbal has consorted with the “secular” parties in the past but kept away from the BJP.

Sources said that even forming a minority government wouldn’t help because the BJP would then be perennially dependent on the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress to bail it out of tricky situations.

“In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, no party would want to strike deals with another on the floor of the Assembly and risk undermining its credibility,” a source said.

Bigwigs fall

Delhi today witnessed an event without parallel in its political history when its longest-serving chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, lost to the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party’s leader by more than 25,000 votes.

But Kejriwal was not his party’s lone giant-killer — his candidates humbled several Congress ministers and BJP heavyweights.

Health minister A.K. Walia lost to Vinod Kumar Binny in Laxmi Nagar, which he had won four times, by 7,700 votes. Binny was once a Congress member.

Education minister Kiran Walia was pushed to third spot as Somnath Bharati, a Delhi IIT ex-student and practising Supreme Court lawyer, marched to victory.

Raj Kumar Chauhan, the PWD minister, lost to the Aam Aadmi Party’s Rakhi Birla, a former journalist who quit her job in a private television company in 2011 to join Kejriwal.

Dikshit wrapped up her three-term reign with an anodyne statement: “I respect the decision of the people of Delhi and we thank them for having supported us in the last 15 years.”

The eight seats the Congress has won have sizeable Muslim populations. Two of Dikshit’s cabinet colleagues, transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely and food and supplies minister Haroon Yusuf, have held on to their seats thanks to Muslim votes.

A trio of three-time BJP lawmakers lost to Aam Aadmi Party rivals in Shalimar Bagh, Karol Bagh and Delhi Cantonment — traditional BJP seats with sizeable middle-class presence.

Evidence on the ground suggests that Narendra Modi’s charisma had limited effect and Rahul Gandhi’s appeal failed.

Rahul had held just two rallies, in Ambedkar Nagar and Mangol Puri. The PWD minister lost from Mangol Puri while Ambedkar Nagar rejected four-time Congress MLA Chaudhary Prem Singh.

As for Modi, the BJP wrested from the Congress two of the four constituencies where he addressed rallies: Matiala and Shahdara. In Chandni Chowk and Sultan Pur Majra, the Congress won, just as it had in 20008.