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BJP toils for Delhi names

Swamy

New Delhi, March 11: The BJP has been finding it difficult to name candidates for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, with few takers in spite of the so-called “Narendra Modi wave”.

The Delhi BJP unit has not even submitted a long list of candidates that the central leaders can choose from.

Demoralisation following the BJP’s failure to win the Assembly elections, the fear that the Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as a far big challenger in Delhi than the BJP imagined, and factional rivalry between local leaders Harshvardhan and Vijay Goel are being cited as reasons.

Goel was nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan in the hope that he would stop interfering in Delhi politics. That has not happened.

“Even now, Goel holds meetings of his supporters in his Delhi office, plans counter-strategies to contain Harshvardhan and is actively lobbying to get his people Lok Sabha tickets,” a source said. Goel was said to be working hard to get his friend and businessman, Sudanshu Mittal, the Chandni Chowk seat that is held by Kapil Sibal of the Congress. But this was “stiffly resisted” by influential leaders.

The central leaders have decided that instead of fielding veterans who have been losing elections, the BJP should begin on a “clean slate” and go for new faces with a “celebrity quotient”, sources said. “We are talking of candidates of substance, of achievers in public spheres,” a source said.

Sources said a tentative list includes Subramanian Swamy, who has the support of the RSS, for New Delhi; columnist and author M.J. Akbar, backed by Modi, for Northeast Delhi; former envoy Hardeep Puri, supported by Arun Jaitley, for West Delhi; Dalit leader Udit Raj for Northwest Delhi; Vijender Gupta, a Jaitley nominee, from Chandni Chowk; and Mahesh Giri, backed by Nitin Gadkari, for East Delhi. For South Delhi, it is a toss-up between local Jat leaders Sarita Chowdhury and Pravesh Verma, the son of former chief minister Sahib Singh Verma. Barring Gupta and the South Delhi contenders, the rest have never fought an election in Delhi.

“They come without a baggage, they don’t carry taint and have the perfect social profile to appeal to the national capital,” a source said.

Policewoman-turned social activist Kiran Bedi’s name was also considered but she was said to have argued that she could contribute “much more” to the BJP if she was outside its power structures than inside.

The BJP’s parliamentary board and central election committee are scheduled to meet on Thursday and announce a majority of the names not just for Delhi but other states as well.