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Delhi Cong chief resigns

Jai Prakash Agarwal

New Delhi, Dec. 15: Delhi Congress president Jai Prakash Agarwal, whom Sheila Dikshit has obliquely blamed for the poll debacle, today tendered his resignation.

Sources said the handful of successful Congress candidates had met Rahul Gandhi on Friday and unanimously held Agarwal responsible for the rout that has whittled the party’s Assembly tally from 43 to eight.

Two persons are being mentioned as the possible successor: Ajay Maken, an MP who heads the Congress’s communications team, and Union women and child development minister Krishna Tirath.

Sources said Maken was not too keen and, as a woman and a Dalit, Tirath was the favourite. The Congress has lost all the nine reserved seats in Delhi it had won the last time.

Agarwal, a bitter foe of Dikshit and accused of holding the state unit aloof from the poll campaign, has become the third state Congress chief to quit following the party’s defeat in four Assembly elections.

Rajasthan chief Chandrabhan had resigned on December 8, the day of the counting, after losing from Mandwa. His Madhya Pradesh counterpart Kanti Lal Bhuria tendered his resignation to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul two days later.

Agarwal has been the longest serving Delhi Congress president, having occupied the post for the past six years and a half. Despite his poor relations with then chief minister Dikshit, he was nominated for a second term in 2010.

There had been murmurs before the Assembly polls that he would be replaced but the high command chose to stick with him. Rahul held a series of meetings since June to try and iron out the differences between Agarwal and Dikshit but this proved difficult.

After the poll disaster, Dikshit complained that the Delhi Congress had not participated enthusiastically in the campaign and had failed to effectively inform the electorate about the state government’s achievements.

Agarwal, though, has been complaining that Dikshit deliberately denied his parliamentary constituency, Northeast Delhi, any infrastructure project and left it devoid of even a Metro connection.

Agarwal’s son Mudit had sought an Assembly ticket from Chandni Chowk in 2008 but lost out after Dikshit allegedly insisted that three-time MLA Prahlad Singh Sawhney must be retained.