BJP tug of war over old and new

NEW DELHI OCT. 28. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi does not face the uncomfortable situation of having to replace too many sitting MLAs, it is facing opposition to its move to bring back the veterans who have been rejected in the past. There is a strong demand within the party to weed out controversial and worn-out elements and induct new faces and those with a clean image.

According to sources within the party, the leadership is already toying with the idea of changing the Assembly seats of some of the former MLAs in view of the continued feedback that they do not enjoy a good reputation in their area or have become controversial due to certain actions in the past. Similarly, the party is finding it hard to resist pressure from within and especially from the youth leadership that the old guard, who have not been active for the past five years and have lost their relevance, should not be given party ticket, as this could prove crucial in case of a close contest. Many within the party are of the view that thrust should be laid on fielding new faces and those with a clean image as greenhorns tend to hold the surprise element and could take the opposition candidate by surprise. The matter is understood to have been discussed at the highest level between the Delhi BJP president, Madan Lal Khurana, senior party leader, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, and the party general secretary, Parmod Mahajan.

Among the veterans and former MLAs who have staked their claim for the party ticket are the former MLA, O.P. Babar from Tilak Nagar, Madan Lal Gabba from Vishwas Nagar, Rajinder Gupta from Timarpur, M.S. Panwar from Mandawali, Mange Ram Garg from Wazirpur, Vasu Dev Kaptan from Chandni Chowk, Amarnath Kumar from Hauz Khas, Gauri Shankar Bhardwaj from Shakurbasti and Hari Kishen from Sadar seat. However, in case of Mr. Vasu Dev Kaptan, the party is of the view that being a leader of the traders, he should be given the ticket in order to placate this community, which is annoyed with BJP. Similarly, the party might opt to give the party nomination from Hauz Khas to Dr. Amarnath as he has the support of his elder brother and Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh president, Manohar Lal Kumar. The BJP Councillor, Arti Mehra, is also a strong contender from this seat.

For instance, the party is contemplating changing the Assembly constituency of the former Minister, Poornima Sethi, whose image has suffered a dent due to her attitude with the electorate of her Kalkaji constituency. Same is the case with former MLA, Vinod Sharma, whose candidature from Nasirpur is facing stiff opposition within the party in view of his controversial image. Mr. Sharma, considered close to Mr. Khurana, faces stiff opposition from Mr. Sahib Singh Verma, in whose Parliamentary constituency his seat falls. In fact, there is a general opinion that the Nasirpur seat, dominated by people from Poorvanchal, should go to a candidate from that region and the name of G.C. Mishra, a scientist from IIT Delhi, is being floated from this seat. While Mr. Verma is understood to be backing the candidature of former Deputy Mayor, Rajesh Ghelot, but the party is firm on fielding a Bihari leader from this seat. Similarly, a struggle of sorts is going on for the Saket seat presently held by Congress. The race is between the BJP State secretary, Jagdish Mamgain, and the Delhi BJP vice-president, Vijay Jolly, who contested the election in 1998 and lost by around 8,000 votes. It is learnt that around 21 Resident Welfare Associations and organisations have written to the BJP supporting the candidature of Mr. Mamgain. The party stands divided as far as Saket is concerned and it would be a tough decision for them to take at the time of finalisation of tickets.

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