Getting back dissidents in its fold has been difficult for the Congress. On Friday, the last date for withdrawing nominations, the party could manage to convince only one leader to step down.
Hanif Malik from Sangam Vihar, who had filed his nomination as an independent candidate, gave up his claim to the seat in favour of Amod Kanth, the former Indian Police Service officer named as the Congress’s choice from the seat.
Major dissidents like former mayor Satbir Singh and Sikh leader Ajit Singh Chaddha refused to make any concessions for the party. Both decided to contest the elections as independent candidates — Singh from Mehrauli and Chaddha from Tilak Nagar. Yet the party leadership was hopeful that the leaders would come around. “There is no deadline to this. These people have been in the party for a long time. We do not want to let them go easily,” said Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chairman Jai Prakash Aggarwal.
The dissidents, however, were not even heeding to the covert ultimatum sent out by the party — those who failed to withdraw their nominations in favour of the Congress would be expelled from the party.
“Let them expel me. I am not bothered. I was sent a message that the party wanted to reconcile. But nobody has called me from DPCC yet. You should ask the chief minister why I am not going to step down,” said a defiant Singh.
Singh, who was said to be close to former DPCC chief Ram Babu Sharma, found himself out of favour with both CM Sheila Dikshit and Aggarwal. But party leaders said a truce could still be forged as the candidates could always pitch their weight behind the Congress.
“Officially, the date for withdrawal of nominations might have passed, and the names of these leaders (dissidents) may show on the final electoral list as independent candidates. But they could still step down in favour of Congress by asking their supporters to vote for the party,” said a senior leader.
But the task seemed tougher than the party cared to admit. Two of the other leaders who had openly declared war against the party leadership — Vir Singh Bidhuri from Sangam Vihar and Dhuli Chand Lohia from Rajouri Garden — were already with the Nationalist Congress Party.
Lohia was miffed with the candidature of Dayanand Chandila from Rajouri Garden. Chandila had defected to the Congress from the BJP only in September.