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After days of drama, speculation and suspense, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally named former health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. But the key question is: Will the gamble of naming the CM face so close to the elections yield positive results for a party desperate to come back to power in Delhi after 15 years?
While a section of BJP leaders felt the naming was quite late and could have negative repercussions in the elections, others claimed it was a well-planned move.
“In 1998 too, the party had named Sushma Swaraj as its last-minute candidate. She had replaced Sahib Singh Verma barely two months before the elections following a major onion crisis. The move had backfired. In 2008, the BJP had named Vijay Kumar Malhotra as the chief ministerial candidate just ahead of the assembly elections and the party failed miserably,” said a senior BJP leader.
Many believe an early announcement of the CM face could have created a rift within the party.
“Gadkariji has carefully nurtured the Delhi BJP. Look at the state the party was in a few months back. He has been able to mollify Vijay Goel, who was a cause for worry. He was able to satisfy the ego of senior leaders and at the same time has taken a decision that favours the BJP. The party now has a face,” said a senior leader.
But having a chief ministerial candidate for the elections is only the first major hurdle to be cleared. The focus has now shifted to distribution of tickets. This exercise requires balancing between a candidate’s ‘winnability’ quotient and ensuring that his or her nomination does not create any dissidence.
“The announcement of the CM candidate had been delayed a lot and there should be no further delay in declaring the candidates,” said a senior BJP leader.
Most leaders and party workers also want electioneering, which has come to a near standstill in the past few days, to pick up speed.
Senior BJP leaders said it was unlikely that Harsh Vardhan would interfere in the ticket distribution process, on which Nitin Gadkari, Delhi’s election in-charge, and the national leadership will take a call.
“At this stage, Harsh Vardhan would not make unnecessary demands as he wouldn’t want to enter into any controversy. At the same time, he does not have too many people for whom he would want tickets,” said a senior leader.
There were allegations of Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel having interfered in the ticket distribution process. “Though the secret ballot was done, workers found that rather than nominating three names, Goel had started interfering in this preliminary exercise. For a single seat, 15 names were short-listed. It was after this that the workers appealed to Gadkari,” said a source. But the party is likely to give tickets to a few of Goel’s supporters to mollify him.
With the confusion over, BJP workers are now vigorously working on the door-to-door- mass connect programme.