The BJP will fight the Delhi assembly elections without a chief ministerial face, banking instead on ‘Brand Modi’ for a repeat of the party’s winning performance in Maharashtra and Haryana.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), seen as its main rival, said it would be a contest between its chief Arvind Kejriwal and Jagdish Mukhi, a Delhi BJP veteran earlier seen as a frontrunner for the CM’s chair.The party positions became clearer Tuesday coinciding with the Union cabinet approving dissolution of the assembly and setting the ball rolling for the elections, likely to be held in February next year.
Lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung had recommended dissolving the House to the Centre after the BJP, Congress and AAP on Monday expressed inability to form government and sought a fresh mandate. It ended months of uncertainty that began with the Kejriwal government quitting on February 14 after just 49 days in power and President’s rule being imposed three days later.
The election commission recently announced bypolls to three assembly seats — necessitated by the BJP members being elected to the Lok Sabha in the summer — but this will now be cancelled. The panel will, instead, start preparations for the assembly polls.
The BJP — with 29 MLAs (including one from SAD) in the 67-member House —initially explored the possibility of forming a government with the support of ‘rebel’ MLAs from the Congress and AAP, sources said. It apparently backed off after none of its claimants for the CM’s post could get the support of six additional legislators — the number needed to reach the magic halfway mark.
Then came the victories in Maharashtra and Haryana, reinforcing the idea of a ‘Modi wave’ and infusing fresh confidence in the Delhi BJP. The party expects to do well in the next round of polls in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir too, and feels the momentum will carry on to the Capital.
HT had reported Monday that the BJP would stick to its tried-and-tested formula of going faceless and relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Our party believes in collective leadership and that is how we fought in Haryana and Maharashtra. We will get a clear majority this time too and afterwards, whoever the collective leadership decides will lead the state. Our focus is on winning the elections,” Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay told HT.
Sources also said there was no consensus yet on a CM candidate and in such circumstances, declaring one could affect the party’s prospects. In the last elections in December 2013, the BJP had declared Harsh Vardhan, now Union health minister, its CM candidate.
Contrary to the BJP’s position, AAP (with 28 MLAs) is clear about its choice — Kejriwal — and insists it will be Mukhi on the other side. “He is the main BJP leader. Tell me a better name,” the former CM said Tuesday.
Asked if he was scared of Modi, he said, “Will he resign as PM and fight for the CM’s post? It’s Mukhi who will be the BJP’s choice in Delhi.”
“We are confident of winning at least 45 seats. We are confident the people of Delhi will bless us,” Kejriwal added.