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Focus shifts to polls in states

New Delhi, May 31: The BJP has got down to work preparing for the elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Delhi this year, aware that the results might be seen as a measure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity.

Delhi comes first on the BJP’s agenda because of the momentum the outcome in the capital generates nationally, sources said.

Although the Aam Aadmi Party failed to pick up a single Lok Sabha seat in Delhi after an impressive debut in the December Assembly elections, the BJP is unlikely to treat the party lightly, the sources said.

“Its candidates came second in all the seven Lok Sabha seats, pushing the Congress to third place. Therefore, we expect AAP to be our main contender. We have to see how much of the space vacated by the Congress and the other so-called secular parties the AAP can grab, the votes of the minorities, the Dalits and the poor,” a Delhi BJP leader said.

The BJP also faces the question of who to project as its chief ministerial face. Harsh Vardhan, who it chose in the last Assembly polls, has just won the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat and become a Union minister.

Meenakshi Lekhi, who won her first election from New Delhi, is being seen as a possible contender because she is “young, articulate and feisty” and expected to hold her own against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, a source said.

But Meenakshi has been elected a Lok Sabha MP. If she is chosen. the party will have to find a candidate for the Lok Sabha bypoll and look for the right Assembly seat for her.

Kiran Bedi, a former cop who was part of Anna Hazare’s campaign, has also thrown her hat in the ring. But sources said there would be a “revolt” if Kiran made the grade. “We have no dearth of leaders. Why should we endorse an outsider?” a former MLA asked.

But the majority in the BJP believe it is up to Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah to take a call. “If Modi thinks Kiran Bedi is the right chief ministerial candidate, everybody will fall in line and accept her,” a source said.

In Haryana, the BJP’s state unit is in favour of dumping ally Haryana Janhit Congress, which drew a blank in the Lok Sabha polls.

In Maharashtra, the BJP and ally Shiv Sena are already playing for a larger share of the tickets. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray relented to his minister Ananth Geete’s heavy industries portfolio on the agreement that the Sena would get the quota of Assembly seats it wants along with the chief minister’s post.