All eyes on battle royale in New Delhi constituency

  • Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 15, 2015 12:40 IST

The constituency shares the name of the Capital, is home to both the powerful and the elite. The contest for New Delhi seat has been the battle royale with the winner becoming the chief minister for the last four terms.

While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already announced the candidature of previous MLA and CM Arvind Kejriwal, the rivals are yet to open their cards. The Bharatiya Janata Party is weighing its options between a star or a grassroots worker. Speculation was rife that former AAP leader Shazia Ilmi was joining the party and may be fielded against her former friend and leader, Kejriwal. Shazia, however, tweeted on Wednesday that she is not in the race for the party ticket.

“Ilmi is a strong candidate and was the founding member of AAP. If she were pitted against Kejriwal, the public would have realised that AAP leaders themselves don’t trust Kejriwal and which is why they have quit the party,” said a senior BJP leader.

Last year, former Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta was the party’s choice but he came a distant third, in what became the defining contest of the 2013 assembly polls. The debutante Kejriwal decimated four-term MLA and Congress’ chief minister Sheila Dikshit by a massive margin of over 25,000 votes.

This year, the equations have changed drastically. With its government at the Centre and a string of successes at the recently-concluded assembly elections in four states, the BJP has become a mean election-winning machine. It is the same confidence that has inspired a number of aspirants queueing-up before the party office in the hope of getting a ticket.

Another prominent name among the claimants for the BJP ticket from the ‘VIP constituency’ is Surender Singh Rao. Party sources said Rao has a strong local connect. He headed various public dealing departments of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) for the past 20 years. Sources said Rao’s name has also been recommended by a number of resident welfare associations, market associations.

Rao, who has served as the enforcement director for the agency, retired in 2013.

Poonam Azad, wife of cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad who had represented the seat in 1993; former DUSU president Nupur Sharma, who is part of the Delhi BJP’s media team; Sunil Yadav, a local leader and general secretary of the Yuva Morcha; and Rajiv Singh, who is associated with the RWAs in the area are among ticket hopefuls.

“A section in the party is of the view that a strong local leader, somebody who has worked among the people in the constituency should be given a chance. But some others feel a big name will create the required buzz in the VIP constituency,” said a senior BJP leader.

The BJP is hopeful that since one of the flagship initiatives of the BJP-led Central government, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, was launched from the Valmiki Colony in the New Delhi segment, the party stands a stronger chance of a win.

The urgency to find a fitting candidate for the seat underlines its importance

The New Delhi constituency is a microcosm of the Capital with the high and mighty living in palatial houses on Shahjahan Road on one hand while the poorest of the city huddled in some slum clusters.

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