The Congress on Tuesday retained five sitting MPs from Delhi while the BJP spiced up the battle for Ghaziabad, fielding former army chief General (retd) VK Singh against Congress’ Raj Babbar and Aam Aadmi Party’s Shazia Ilmi.
Congress general secretary and former Union minister Ajay Maken will stand from New Delhi, and Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath from Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi, respectively. The party’s third list also named former Delhi Congress chief Jai Prakash Agarwal (North East Delhi) and party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit (East Delhi). All big winners in 2009, this time they have the daunting task of overcoming a rampant Narendra Modi-led BJP and an Aam Aadmi Party riding high on its stunning debut in the assembly polls.
Cong banks on experience, repeats 5 MPs in Delhi
Chandni Chowk is the contest to watch with two-term MP Sibal pitted against the BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and AAP’s journalist-turned-politician Ashutosh. Maken will face the BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi, a lawyer-turned-politician. Dikshit, son of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, won the last election with the highest margin in Delhi and is up against Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi, the AAP candidate.
Maken and Agarwal had both won primaries conducted by the Congress in their respective constituencies.
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The list was silent on the remaining two seats, West and South Delhi, hinting at the possibility of fresh faces being brought in. While Purvanchali leader Mahabal Mishra currently represents West Delhi, Ramesh Kumar, brother of heavyweight Jat leader and former MP Sajjan Kumar, is the South Delhi MP.
There has been stiff resistance to both from party workers. Mishra had fielded his son in the November assembly polls and his wife and nephew in the 2012 municipal elections, but all three ended up losing. Ramesh Kumar was fielded in 2009 after Sajjan, denied a ticket due to his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, insisted on it. Sajjan’s son Jag Pravesh also lost the 2013 assembly polls.
Sources said the central leadership was of view that the Congress should replace a few leaders to diffuse anti-incumbency, which played heavily against the party in the assembly polls, cutting it down to just eight MLAs. However, a section of leaders believes all seven sitting MPs should be retained.
The Congress had won six seats in Delhi in the 2004 general elections and swept the 2009 polls.
In neighbouring Ghaziabad, Gen Singh takes over from BJP president and sitting MP Rajnath Singh, who is contesting from Lucknow. The announcement came a day after the ex-army chief was allegedly roughed up by some party workers, protesting an “outsider” being foisted on them, during his visit to the BJP office in Ghaziabad’s Nehru Nagar. Singh hails from Haryana and joined the BJP on March 1.
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The BJP initially wanted him to contest against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli but he wasn’t keen. Singh, 63, retired as army chief in May 2012 after a troubled stint that saw him take the Centre to court over the age row. Before he was finalised from Ghaziabad, BJP sources said UP leader Sangeet Som, an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots case, was also considered.