Sensing the unhappiness of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Delhi leaders and workers with its current chief Vijay Goel’s style of functioning, the party may soon announce a new face for the state assembly elections.
Sources said four-time MLA Harsh Vardhan is a frontrunner as the BJP leadership looks for a new leader to head the party in the assembly elections. Vardhan was Delhi’s health and law minister between 1993 and 1998.
“The leadership has made up its mind that BJP cannot afford to go to the polls with Goel as its face. It wants a seasoned campaigner acceptable to both the workers and the people and who can take on Sheila Dikshit,” a senior BJP leader said.
While sources said the party had decided on Vardhan as the CM candidate, it was yet to take a call when to make it public. The party’s decision to announce VK Malhotra’s name as its candidate just ahead of the 2008 assembly polls had backfired and the BJP may not take the same risk this time, sources said.
“The leadership may stop just short of announcing Vardhan as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, rather than promote him as chief of the campaign team,” a party leader said.
Another option, the sources said, is contesting the election under the ‘collective leadership’ of Malhotra, Goel, Vardhan and former Delhi president Vijender Gupta. The collective leadership model will be the BJP’s substitute to its once strong crop of leaders such as Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Varma or Kedar Nath Sahni. Goel and Vardhan alone cannot pull the votes of Delhi’s strong Punjabi, Bihari or Baniya communities.
Sources said the party leadership is really worried about the growing factionalism within the Delhi unit, especially after Goel’s appointment. Several Delhi leaders, including Malhotra, Gupta, Vardhan, former mayor and general secretary Aarti Mehra and former MLA Vijay Jolly have on more than one occasions shown their discontent about Goel’s style of functioning.
“But replacing Goel now can also affect the party’s chances, so the leadership is thinking of other ways,” a source said.