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Infighting may make going tough for BJP

By Sujay Mehdudia

NEW DELHI, MARCH 11. Even as the Congressmen squabble over the distribution of party tickets for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidates have already launched themselves into the election mode. However, the decision to repeat the six sitting Members of Parliament has not gone down well with partymen and the BJP bigwigs will also have to battle severe infighting.

The Delhi BJP State Election Committee had cleared the names of the six candidates for the Lok Sabha polls and has left the choice for the Chandni Chowk seat to the party leadership. However, what has surprised the party rank and file is the failure of the Committee to consult the districts and mandals on allocation of tickets. The party is faced with severe infighting and possible sabotage in the Outer Delhi, South Delhi, Karol Bagh and Sadar Parliamentary seats could make the going tough for the sitting Members of Parliament seeking a re-election. Many of the BJP leaders point out that in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, it was the Kargil war and Atal Bihari wave that ensured their victory. This is not the case in the present elections and the "feel good factor'' could be with the Vajpayee Government, but certainly not with these Members of Parliament.

The South Delhi candidate, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, and the Outer Delhi candidate, Sahib Singh Verma, are facing strong opposition from within the party. "The Delhi unit president, Harsh Vardhan, hardly had any time between the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Otherwise some of the candidates would not have been repeated,'' a senior party leader remarked.

It is no secret that the former MLAs, Poornima Sethi, Rajesh Kumar and the former Transport Minister, Rajendra Gupta, have no love lost for Mr. Malhotra and their supporters have already shown their displeasure over his candidature. Rebels and rivals of Mr. Malhotra have joined hands against him.

On the other hand, Mr. Verma also faces stiff opposition from the various mandals and districts in the Outer Delhi Parliamentary constituency. Mr. Verma's preference to work only for the Jat community has annoyed many. In the Assembly polls late last year, Mr. Verma ensured that no Brahmin got a party ticket in any of the 21 Assembly segments falling under the Outer Delhi Parliamentary seat. The party had to pay a heavy price for this strategy. "The party leaders are not happy with the role of Mr. Verma in the distribution of tickets during the MCD and Assembly polls during the last two years. This has led to strong resentment against him,'' a former Minister remarked.

The situation is a bit different but still not very comfortable for the Sadar candidate, Vijay Goel. Having shifted his constituency from Chandni Chowk to Sadar, Mr. Goel could well face strong opposition from the supporters of the former Chief Minister, Madan Lal Khurana, who are unhappy with the manner in which the latter has been treated. Strong resentment prevails among the Punjabi community over the ouster of Mr. Khurana from the city politics. Mr. Goel could face a tough time if he does not get the blessings of Mr. Khurana. The situation is no better in the Karol Bagh (SC) and East Delhi Parliamentary seats and all will depend on how well the party is able to tackle the dissidents.

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