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Delhi’s Congress chief quits over poll debacle

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 16, 2013
First Published: 00:08 IST(16/12/2013) | Last Updated: 00:47 IST(16/12/2013)

Delhi Congress chief Jai Prakash Agarwal resigned from his post on Sunday, a week after the party suffered its worst loss in the Delhi assembly elections. Agarwal has sent his letter of resignation to party president Sonia Gandhi, sources said.

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AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed, however, said he wasn’t aware of the resignation. “He may have sent it directly to the party president,” Ahmed said. Agarwal could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Agarwal and outgoing Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit have been at loggerheads for a long time with Dikshit and a majority of Congress candidates blaming the state functionaries for lack of support. The Congress slumped to its worst ever defeat in the Capital with just eight seats in the 70-member assembly, down from 43 in 2008.

The final decision on Agarwal’s replacement is likely to be taken in a couple of days. The high command may opt for a young leader to rejuvenate the party, in crisis following the loss of traditional vote bank to the debutant Aam Aadmi Party.

Former MLA Subhash Chopra, Sheila Dikshit’s close aide Chatar Singh, five time MLA and former power minister Haroon Yusuf, and four time MLA and former revenue minister Arvinder Singh are said to be the frontrunners for the post.

During his six years in office, Agarwal had regular run-ins with Sheila Dikshit, who even met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in March this year to ensure Agarwal’s removal.

Problems between the two leaders resurfaced when Agarwal disapproved of Dikshit’s proposal to induct and give tickets to three legislators from other parties. The rift culminated in a disagreement over the final candidates list. While Agarwal wanted to replace at least 14 sitting ‘unpopular’ MLAs, Dikshit dissented and gave tickets to 40 out of the 41 sitting legislators. Two Congress MLAs had already lost in previous byelections.

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