‘If the BJP cannot decide it is Sheila Dikshit versus who, it will be in trouble.’
‘BJP workers are in disarray, they don’t know who to look up to.’
‘For some senior leaders, 2013 will be the last election they contest. They don’t have any stake in the party’s future, but create obstacles for the next generation.’
—quotes by BJP leaders
Guess who came to lunch? When BJP Delhi unit chief Vijay Goel hosted a luncheon for party colleagues and the media at the Constitutional Club earlier this month, the turnout was impressive. There was BJP president Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj among the notable attendees, but conspicuous by their absence were the state leaders. Among those who did not attend was leader of the Opposition V K Malhotra, two former BJP city presidents Vijender Gupta and Dr Harshvardhan, former Delhi state finance minister Jagdish Mukhi, and Sahab Singh Chauhan, who is the party’s chief whip in the Assembly. Reportedly, none of them were invited.
“Goel does not get along with many senior leaders of the BJP Delhi state unit. Many of them, including Malhotra, Harshvardhan and Chauhan have been vocal about not being invited by Goel. Moreover, it is well known that Malhotra, Harshvardhan, Mukhi and Gupta consider themselves chief ministerial candidates and are in direct competition with Goel,” said a senior BJP leader requesting anonymity. But the party’s problems do not end here. A number of senior leaders from the state do not see eye to eye, like for instance Malhotra (81) and Mukhi. Reportedly, many BJP state leaders and MLA did not take kindly to Malhotra being sent from central to state politics and being projected as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the run up to the 2008 Assembly elections.
The party’s internal squabbles became evident in February, when BJP city President Vijender Gupta’s bid for a second term were derailed when Goel was appointed Delhi state President. Sources in the party said Ram Lal, general secretary (organisation) played an important role in derailing Gupta’s chances. “Ram Lal managed to get Rajnath, Sushma and Advaniji to back Goel so that Gupta, who is known to be close to Jaitley, was defeated. It is well known that Goel and Gupta don’t see eye to eye. This has affected the party’s efforts to be an united opposition to the Congress,” said a senior BJP leader.
“BJP Delhi prabhari (in charge) Venkaiah Naidu too has made his displeasure known after Goel announced the state executive committee list on May 15. Naidu said neither was he shown the list nor consulted regarding the appointments made to the committee,” a BJP leader said.
After the executive committee list was released, Goel was asked by certain party leaders to revise it and include the names of Pravesh Verma, son of former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, and V K Monga. A revised list followed.
A former state president of the BJP claimed workers are in disarray since they don’t know whom to look up to as a leader who will be their chief ministerial candidate. Many feel that Goel would be the party’s CM candidate and he has been portraying himself as such. But reportedly, Rajnath Singh has told him in no uncertain terms that being appointed as state president does not qualify him to be the chief ministerial candidate.
A leader said things have come to such a pass that the BJP state unit starts protesting on issues only after new parties like Aam Aadmi Party take them up. “Be it power or water supply, we seem to be one step behind. We are the principal opposition party in the state, but it doesn’t seem so,” he said.