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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Goel pips Gupta for Delhi BJP top job

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 15, 2013
First Published: 23:34 IST(15/2/2013) | Last Updated: 23:36 IST(15/2/2013)

Former Union minister Vijay Goel on Friday replaced Vijendra Gupta as president of the BJP's Delhi unit where factional squabbles have cast a shadow on the party's preparation for the assembly polls due in November this year.

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Goel's appointment was announced by party chief Rajnath Singh after days of intense discussion among top leaders.

Goel apparently had the backing of Rajnath and BJP patriarch LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, who had initially pitched for former Delhi health and education minister Harsh Vardhan.

BJP insiders said Gupta lost out to Goel for a second term because a faction thought he was close to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely and a section of RSS leaders were against his continuation -- though Gupta's supporters held that he had kept the BJP "more active" on the streets of the capital than any previous party chief.

But Gupta's handling of the MCD elections last year, particularly the distribution of tickets, had come under scrutiny. Both Goel and Gupta belong to the Baniya community, a key support base of the BJP in the Capital.

Rajnath informed Gupta about Goel's appointment on Friday evening, BJP sources said. The party later announced Goel's appointment with immediate effect.

Considered close to Rajnath, Goel, who was national general secretary of the BJP, is said to have convinced top BJP brass that he would strive to rebuild the party and take everyone along ahead of the Delhi polls.

Those who had opposed Goel had cited his handling of elections in Assam and Haryana to delay his appointment. But Advani and Swaraj apparently favoured his candidature, along with Rajnath, who thought that Goel was capable of handling the challenge in Delhi.

Goel's critics were dismayed by Rajnath's decision and said the factional war was bound to increase, jeopardising the BJP's bid for wresting power from the Congress for the fourth time in the state polls.

The BJP's previous attempts to dislodge the Congress had been hamstrung by Sheila Dikshit's stewardship of her party's affairs and the state government.

BJP officials said Goel's appointment meant that the party brass would be forced to look for another name to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate.

Several names, including that of Dr Harsh Vardhan and even BJP MP Smirti Irani, were already in the air, party insiders said. A final call could be taken just before the polls.

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