Ending weeks of suspense, the BJP on Wednesday named Harsh Vardhan, a former Delhi Health Minister, as its chief ministerial candidate for the December Assembly elections.
The name was cleared by the BJP Parliamentary Board at a meeting presided over by party president Rajnath Singh. For almost two months, there had been speculation in the media on a rift in the Delhi unit because its chief Vijay Goel was opposed to Dr. Vardhan’s candidature.
The 58-year-old ENT specialist will be pitted against the three-time Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, of the Congress and debutant Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
To send across a message that the entire State BJP unit was united on the candidature of Dr. Vardhan, Mr. Rajnath Singh made the announcement at a press conference, where the nominee and Mr. Goel, along with other senior leaders, were present.
Earlier, the fissures were so deep that the task of bringing all leaders on the same page was entrusted to the former BJP chief, Nitin Gadkari.
At one stage, he announced that the party would fight the elections under collective leadership.
Even at a news conference here last week, Mr. Goel said his popularity in Delhi was on a par with Ms. Dikshit’s.
Now, the BJP was compelled to name its chief ministerial choice what with its leaders being taunted by the Congress and the AAP as lacking in courage to do so for fear of a backlash from the rank and file.
Of the four States — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi — where the BJP has political stakes, the party faces the toughest challenge in the capital city.
The fifth State where the Assembly elections are being held is Mizoram.
In Delhi, the BJP finds it tough as the AAP has caught the imagination of some sections of voters who are unhappy with the Congress.
On the candidate, Mr. Singh said: “Dr. Harsh Vardhan has contributed a lot to the party and showed excellent performance as Health Minister.”
Mr. Goel had requested him to project Dr. Harsh Vardhan as the party candidate.
Senior leader L.K. Advani, who was present along with Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar, besides Mr. Gadkari, said Mr. Goel “happily accepted” the decision, which the leadership made, bearing in mind the Lok Sabha polls due next year.
No rift within the party: Goel
Mr. Goel said: “There was no rift in the party. I am very satisfied with the decision, and now the agenda is to work towards winning the elections.”
Dr. Vardhan said: “Leaders and workers in Delhi will put their heart and soul into seeing that the corrupt Congress is ousted.”