The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first list of 57 candidates has added to the suspense over its chief ministerial candidate in the Delhi assembly elections as the list does not include senior party leaders except for the leader of opposition in Delhi assembly Vijender Gupta, who will seek re-election from Rohini.
Also, with the BJP withholding the names of candidates from two key assembly segments — New Delhi, where Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is contesting his third election, and Krishna Nagar, which has been represented by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi lost in the 2015 elections — fuelled speculation that the party is likely to field political heavyweight s from these constituencies.
Senior BJP leaders say that discussions are still on regarding whom to field against Kejriwal. The party is looking for a strong candidate who can give a “tough fight” to the CM. In 2013, Kejriwal defeated Vijender Gupta and then-CM Sheila Dikhshit of the Congress. In 2015, he defeated the then Delhi BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
“We don’t want it to be an easy contest for him. The party will announce a strong candidate against him,” said a senior BJP leader who asked not to be named.
The BJP’s decision to withhold the candidate name for Krishna Nagar has led to speculation that Vardhan might contest again. The party announced Vardhan, a five-time MLA from Krishna Nagar, as its CM face in 2013.
But, in 2015, the party named former IPS officer Bedi as its CM candidate. She also contested from Krishna Nagar constituency because it is a BJP stronghold. She lost to the Aam Aadmi Party’s SK Bagga by 2,277 votes.
A senior BJP leader said on condition of anonymity, “The list of 13 MLAs, likely to be released on Saturday, will have a surprise name.”
However, senior leaders say that the party — larning from its past experience, especially 2015, has decided to fight the elections without a chief ministerial face, and bank on the work done by the Narendra Modi government.
The party is also yet to announce candidates for Burari, Nangloi Jat, Delhi Cantonment, Kasturba Nagar, Sangam Vihar and Seemapuri. Senior BJP leaders say that the party has decided to give four constituencies — Rajouri Garden, Hari Nagar, Shahdara and Kalkaji — to its old and trusted ally ShiromanI Akali Dal.
In 2013, the SAD had contested on three seats of which it won two. In 2015, it contested on four seats and couldn’t win any. But the SAD’s national secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa won the Rajouri Garden bypolls in 2017.
This time, too, the SAD have asked for four tickets. But the BJP and the Akalis are yet to finalise the seat-sharing arrangement. Speaking about the seat-sharing arrangement, a senior SAD leader said: “Our party chief has called a meeting on Saturday to finalise the names on four seats.”
But a senior BJP leader said, “They had asked for four seats, but a final decision is yet to be taken.”
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