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Responsibility for BJP?s poll debacle not Khurana?s alone

The perception that BJP lost the Battle for Delhi the day Khurana was declared the chief ministerial candidate may not be altogether correct.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2003 00:15 IST

The perception that BJP lost the Battle for Delhi the day Khurana was declared the chief ministerial candidate may not be altogether correct. To be fair to him, the BJP’s showing is better in West Delhi than what it had been in 1993 With the elections over, celebrations in the Congress are justified. But what is surprising is the barely hidden glee of several senior Delhi BJP leaders. While the fault for the defeat of the party is being laid squarely at Madan Lal Khurana's door, they are shrugging off all responsibility for the poor showing of the party. But the truth is that apart from the obvious disadvantages of image and connectivity that Khurana had, he was equally done in by his own colleagues. Along with battling a strong Congress while also trying to reach out to a changed electorate, Khurana also combatted poor campaign management, bad choice of candidates and wrong advice.

The perception that BJP lost the Battle for Delhi the day Khurana was declared the chief ministerial candidate may not be altogether correct. To be fair, in his immediate area of influence — West Delhi — the BJPs showing is better than what it had been in 1993. In the assembly segments running from Dhansa Border to Moti Nagar, the BJP lost three seats in 1993 — Vishnu Garden, Hastsal and Rajouri Garden. This time, they have been able to win the Vishnu Garden strong hold from former Finance Minister Mahender Singh Saathi.

Even before Khurana launched his campaign, BJP had lost the strategical advantage of a strong third front that the BSP could have put up. The result of relations souring in UP was that Mayawati did not back the BJP in Delhi. Consequently, the BJP could not gain from the BSP's eating into Congress votes. Traditional wisdom has also shown that BJP generally does not do well in a straight fight with the Congress in Delhi. The 1993 victory was to a great extent also because of the Third Front which ate into 25 Congress seats then. The collapse of the Ram Vir Singh Bidhuri led Third Front very close to the elections also put a spanner in the BJP strategy.

But the biggest dent into the BJP seat share was made by poor candidate selection. The BJP inning actually began on a negative score as they had already given up on about 18 seats. While the four seats given to the Akali Dal were as good as gifted away, the Tughlakabad seat went to Bidhuri on a no contest, Nasirpur fell because of poor candidate selection and on the 13 SC seats, the BJP did not even try. The contest for them was actually only on 52 seats.

And Khurana was led into the battle on these seats with one hand tied behind his back because of poor candidate selection. The Nasirpur seat went to the Congress by a small margin of less than 5,000 seats. The official BJP candidate lost his security deposit. And the second largest number of votes were polled by the BJP rebel candidate Vinod Sharma — a candidate being pushed by Khurana who was denied a ticket.

In Malviya Nagar, Monica Arora was put up as the official candidate instead of Sher Singh Dagar — whose winnability factor was higher — at the insistence of senior party leaders. In fact, in return for withdrawing Dagar, the other senior leader pushing his case, ensured that Ajit Tokas got a ticket from R K Puram. In the event, both seats went to Congress.

Virender Juyal, who wanted to contest from Saket, was packed off to Mandawali in east Delhi while Vijay Jolly was accomodated. Jolly won by the narrowest margin in the election — 121 votes — while Juyal lost.

Patel Nagar is a traditional BJP seat that had come to Congress in the onion wave. Given a fighting candidate, the seat could have been won back. Instead, the party ignored Mewa Ram Arya and gave the ticket to Mahesh Chaddha who had earlier not been considered competent even for getting a councillor's ticket.

The BJP also had to pay for ignoring the Brahmin electorate. The party did not give tickets to any Brahmin candidate. The Congress, on the other hand, gave tickets to 10 Brahmins and all of them won, especially in Outer and East Delhi. It is believed that behind not wanting any Brahmin leader to grow in these areas is the personal interest of the established leaders who do not want to see any competition grow and become a threat to themselves.

Whatever little hope Khurana had of leading the party to victory was lost to poor planning. The Parivartan Yatras began too early and were over even before the real excitement of the election began. Further, the already exhausted workers were disheartened by the ticket distribution and were just not able to get it together again for the real fight.

Another blunder was entrusting the task of campaign planning to disgruntled leaders who had been denied tickets. The party was not even able to capitalise on the glamour of Hema Malini who was not taken to the Gole Market constituency where she had spent a part of her childhood.

If Khurana is being cast off as a has-been, then the other Delhi BJP leaders can also not escape the blame. The task of winning Delhi had been equally divided among the MPs, each one being tasked with managing his parliamentary constituency. If introspection is the mood of the day, then Khurana need not be alone in his defeat, he has six others to share the blame with.

First Published: Dec 09, 2003 00:15 IST