The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Khurana cold water on party mood

New Delhi, June 15: With political temperatures rising as the Assembly elections draw near, there is a growing realisation within the Delhi BJP that its chief, Madan Lal Khurana, has not been able to throw up a single issue to catch the voters’ imagination.

Till now, the party was banking mainly on issues such as shortage of water and electricity to build the tempo of its election campaign.

But BJP insiders say these two factors, routinely raked up in every election, are unlikely to stir voters. Not many Delhiites are prepared to believe that the BJP chief has any solution that he could not present when he was chief minister over six years ago.

The other issues raised so far by Khurana include preparing a corruption chargesheet against the Congress government. The Delhi BJP chief also proposes to launch a nyaya yatra in the capital in August.

The BJP chief is at present engaged in a contest with chief minister Sheila Dikshit to pocket the credit for Delhi Metro’s launch.

Khurana’s appeal — at its peak when he was the stalwart in state politics during the 1980s and mid-1990s — is also fading, say party sources. He has not been able to grow beyond being just a leader of Punjabis and the trader community, they pointed out.

A former Delhi BJP chief said the voters’ base has in the past decade increased sizeably in east and outer Delhi, which contains more than half of the 70 Assembly seats of Delhi.

While the eastern part is dominated by the purvanchalis (people belonging to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), outer Delhi is the land of the Jats and Gujjars. In both these segments, Khurana’s acceptability is a bit of a concern for the party.

Leaders close to Khurana, however, insist that Subhash Chopra’s removal from the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president’s post will come as a blessing in disguise for the BJP chief.

The removal of Chopra, a Punjabi, as the Congress state chief, has earned the Congress the wrath of the community. The party has announced that Delhi Vidhan Sabha Speaker Prem Singh will replace him.

The BJP’s top leadership has also not been able to bring together the party’s Delhi-based heavyweights, such as Central ministers Saheb Singh Verma and Vijay Goel, to give the much-needed thrust to its electoral campaign.

Political observers feel that in comparison to the BJP’s chief ministerial candidates in the three other states where polls are scheduled, especially Uma Bharti of Madhya Pradesh, Khurana has not been able to even generate controversies to remain alive in the media. This, according to them, speaks volumes about the state of affairs here.

The party’s top brass will take stock of the poll scenario in Delhi during its three-day chintan baithak in Mumbai from June 17.

The Central leadership of the party is also in a state of flux on how to energise the state unit so that the political atmosphere becomes lively, party sources said.

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