BJP leaves Hari Nagar, Rajouri Garden, Kalkaji, Shahdara seats for its ally
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) will on Friday afternoon finalise candidates for the four seats that were left to it by its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections. The task at hand is not a very tough one as, according to sources, there are only five serious contenders for three seats, with the party almost having made up its mind on Shahdara.
Party sources said with the BJP deciding to leave Hari Nagar, Rajouri Garden, Kalkaji and Shahdara for its longstanding ally, the SAD (Badal) will now take a final call on the candidates in the meeting scheduled to be held at party president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s residence on Friday.
“The main issue for us are the West Delhi seats which we were demanding as a matter of right considering the Sikh and Punjabi population there. From Hari Nagar and Rajouri Garden, there are three main contenders – Delhi unit general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Onkar Singh Thapar and Avtar Singh Hit, who had contested the 2008 Assembly elections but lost by a thin margin of 46 votes.
From Kalkaji, the party source said, the toss will be between Delhi unit president Manjit Singh G.K. and Harmeet Singh Kalka. But the party will not have to rack its brains on Shahdara, where it is likely to repeat Jitender Singh Shunty who had contested the 2008 poll against Narender Nath of the Congress and lost by just 1,536 votes.
Incidentally, it was a direct call from BJP national president Rajnath Singh to SAD (Badal) president Sukhbir Singh Badal right in the course of the BJP’s Central Election Committee meeting at the party headquarters on Wednesday that not only ensured that one of the longest political alliances in recent decades continues unperturbed but also led to an amicable resolution of the ticket-sharing issue between the two parties in Delhi.
Two seats of choice
Giving in to the demand from its Akali allies for seats – two of their choice and two of its own – the BJP on Wednesday offered four seats to its long-time ally. The SAD (Badal) had earlier sought Tilak Nagar and Rajouri Garden from the BJP, while stating that it would be okay with any other two seats. Though the BJP did not concede the Tilak Nagar seat to its ally, which was being sought by Mr. Sirsa himself, it relented and gave it the adjoining Hari Nagar seat, which is represented by former Minister and four-time MLA Harsharan Singh Balli, who has grown old and has also not been keeping well of late. Though Mr. Balli wanted this seat for his son, the BJP decided to hand it over to its Akali ally instead as this is a strong seat with a significant Sikh and Punjabi vote.
As for the Tilak Nagar seat, there was a great deal of opposition from some senior BJP leaders on handing it to the Akalis. This seat is represented by another four-time MLA O.P. Babber who was this time seeking it for his son Rajiv. Mr. Babber is also a close confidante of senior party leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijay Kumar Malhotra.
Since in the last Assembly election, Mr. Hit was the only SAD (Badal) candidate among the four to contest his election on the party’s ‘taraju’ (weighing scale) symbol instead of the BJP’s lotus and had lost by a wafer thin margin, the Akalis will also have to take a call on whether they will contest on their own symbol or otherwise.
For his part, Mr. Manjit Singh said, “The BJP has left the decision on the party symbol to us. It will be our prerogative and the high command will take a decision on this.”
Expressing satisfaction with the seat-sharing, SAD (Badal) Coordination Committee member and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral had said his party was satisfied that the BJP has given it some seats to contest where the party has a significant support base.