Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
NEW DELHI: Former Delhi MLA Vijay Jolly, who fought the last Delhi Assembly election opposite Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from the New Delhi constituency but lost, has emerged front-runner in the race for the Delhi BJP president. According to party sources, his main rival for the post now is his “friend” Vijender Gupta, former Chairman of the MCD Standing Committee.
Though when the exercise to find a new president for Delhi BJP began late last year, there were a large number of candidates in the fray, including some senior party leaders like Nand Kishore Garg, sources now say the political rivalries between various groups and factions have led to elimination of a large number of contenders. And with the new BJP president Nitin Gadkari giving another term to party general secretary Vijay Goel and taking former Delhi Mayor Arti Mehra in his team as secretary, the final word appears to have been said on their candidature for the post of Delhi BJP president.
While some in the party still insist that the race is wide open as there is no one name that has appeared as a hands-down favourite, what has narrowed the race down to Mr. Jolly and Mr. Gupta is that they are both young leaders, both well-educated, quite articulate and very active, politically and socially.
“The party now wants the leaderships to go into younger hands so that their energy and exuberance are once again able to bring the young voters back into the party fold,'' says a senior leader.
While Mr. Gupta has the firm backing of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and was also a contender for the post of Delhi BJP president the last time round, party insiders say his equation with Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had come in the way of his occupying the post, which had then gone to O. P. Kohli. But the Vaish leader had shown his capabilities during the Lok Sabha election from Chandni Chowk where he was pitted opposite Kapil Sibal of the Congress. Mr. Gupta is also known as a champion of the cause of parents and has done pioneering work in the field through his Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh.
As for former Delhi University Students Union president Mr. Jolly, who is a Punjabi, he is said to command a large number of supporters among senior party leaders. From L. K. Advani to Rajnath Singh to Sushma Swaraj, and even Mr. Gadkari now, he enjoys a good rapport with them all. As an MLA, too, he carved out for himself the image of an aggressive leader who was prepared to take on the government of the day on various issues. Having worked closely in the past with Mr. Goel and Mr. Jaitley -- who too were both DUSU presidents -- he has ensured that even those who may have other favourites would not torpedo his boat.
So while Mr. Jaitley may be supporting the candidature of Mr. Gupta, and Mr. Goel is now said to be supporting another South Delhi MLA Ramesh Bidhuri as they feel these are better bets for them to keep a firm stranglehold over Delhi, it is unlikely that they would work towards upsetting Mr. Jolly's applecart, who incidentally is also a businessman by profession like Mr. Gadkari.
While Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly V. K. Malhotra is likely to have a significant say in the final decision, sources insist that even he is now backing Mr. Jolly's candidature.