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BJP waits for Vajpayee's return

By Our Staff Reporter

The Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party president, Madan Lal Khuran, at a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

NEW DELHI DEC. 6. A decision on the future of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership in Delhi and in which direction the party moves on from here would be taken after the return of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, from abroad next week. The party has also gone into the self-introspection mode with the leadership trying to figure out what went wrong that sunk the party and its fortunes in the Capital in the Delhi Assembly polls.

The Delhi BJP chief, Madan Lal Khurana, has refused to take the blame for the poor showing of the party at the hustings and asserted that it was the collective responsibility of the party and its leaders and no individual could be held responsible for the rout. Mr. Khurana met the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, today and is understood to have told him that whatever decision the party leadership takes with regard to Delhi and its future would be acceptable to him. Asked if he had offered to resign owning moral responsibility for the defeat, Mr. Khurana retorted: "I alone am not responsible for it. There were other leaders also apart from various factors that come into play. Why should I alone take the blame for the debacle.''

Mr. Advani, he said, had told him that the party will wait for the Prime Minister to return to Delhi before any decision is taken on the issue. Mr. Khurana was also non-committal on whether he would sit in the Opposition benches in the Delhi Assembly or continue to be part of the ruling party benches in the Lok Sabha.

On the other hand, a meeting of the party office-bearers and the newly-elected MLAs was held at the Pandit Pant Marg office to assess the situation in the aftermath of the dismal showing in the polls. The general mood was that the party had lost to Sheila Dikshit and not the Congress. It was felt that while it should have been a battle between the BJP and Congress, the entire show was turned into a personality clash between Mr. Khurana and Ms. Dikshit and the savvy Chief Minister won hands down. "Throughout the election campaign and in the run-up to the polls, Mr. Khurana kept the entire focus on himself and never let a collective leadership emerge within the party. He played into the hands of the senior leaders who made a mess of the ticket distribution process which worked against the interests of the party,'' a senior leader remarked.

It is learnt that the remarks of the Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, that some of the tickets were distributed without his knowledge has taken the party leaders by surprise. They term it as an attempt by Mr. Verma to divert attention from the damage he has suffered in his strongholds in Outer Delhi. In two Assembly constituencies, Badarpur and Nasirpur, the BJP candidates did not even put up a symbolic fight and the candidates virtually retired from the contest without any explanation in favour of the rebel or independent candidates. The party is still trying to come to grips with the losses it suffered in the Assembly polls. Daggers are already out against Mr. Khurana, Mr.Verma and the South Delhi MP, Vijay Kumar Malhotra. They are being blamed for the poor showing and wrong strategy adopted by the party during the election campaign. A post-mortem is already on within the party but doubts are being expressed if at all this would result in the much required overhauling of the party in Delhi.

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