BJP’s Delhi CM candidate Vardhan leaves Goel sulking

    By Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS,

    New Delhi : The announcement of Harsh Vardhan as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Delhi seems to have left some people in the dumps.

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    According to party leaders who did not wish to be named, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state unit president Vijay Goel has “changed completely” post Oct 23 when the party elected former state health minister Harsh Vardhan as its CM candidate for the Dec 4 assembly polls instead of him.

    “Although nothing was official, everybody had assumed that Goel ji would be the CM candidate including him. He had started campaigning actively and was visiting even the smallest districts of the city,” said a BJP leader.

    “When the announcement came that he wasn’t chosen (as the CM candidate) he was shocked and upset,” added the leader.

    According to media reports, Goel was miffed with the party and had even threatened to resign from his post if Harsh Vardhan was projected as the chief minister. However, following the decision, BJP leader Rajnath Singh said that Goel had “accepted Harsh Vardhan’s candidature” and that all was hunky dory in the state unit of the party.

    But party leaders as well as those regularly covering the BJP saw a drastic change in Goel’s body language.

    The once feisty leader hardly smiled and seemed disinterested. Adding salt to his apparent wounds were the reporters who were now more interested in getting a quote or a byte from Harsh Vardhan instead of Goel.

    And as the countdown began for Dec 4, instead of intensifying campaigning as party president, Goel restricted himself to just holding press conferences in the party office and issuing press releases.

    According to a leader, he even cut back on the time spent at the party headquarters at 14, Pant Marg in central Delhi and only visited the constituencies where people close to him are contesting like Chandni Chowk and Model Town.

    “It seemed as if he was not interested in the daily activities. Earlier, he would spend hours here but after the announcement he would leave soon after finishing a press conference,” said a party official.

    According to the official, the party high command knew that Goel was upset but instead of cajoling him they directed Nitin Gadkari to take over.

    “It would be safe to say that Gadkari is now doing Goel’s job,” said the official adding that the decision was taken as the party “didn’t want to bother Goel.”

    In fact, in one of the rooms at the party headquarters where press conferences are held regularly, there is a hoarding of Goel in the background and some party workers asked senior leaders to replace it with a new one showing Harsh Vardhan and Goel together.

    “But the party turned down the proposal as they knew that would aggravate matters.”

    Similarly, in the party’s manifesto, Harsh Vardhan and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi were shown prominently while other national and local leaders including Goel got scant space.

    But days later, Goel’s close aide – Ashok Goel contesting from Model Town – came out with a manifesto for his constituency which had prominent pictures of Goel, Rajnath Singh and Modi.

    This time Harsh Vardhan was in the background along with other leaders.

    It is evident that Goel is not quite comfortable in the presence of Harsh Vardhan and that is why he is seldom seen alongside the chief ministerial candidate leave alone talking or discussing issues with him.

    In the wake of the party announcing the names of 62 of its 70 candidates Nov 6, supporters of some leaders who did not get a ticket protested at the party’s headquarters.

    The workers of one such candidate– Sarita Choudhary, mayor of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation — stormed the conference room in the party office and broke a couple of chairs as they raised slogans and climbed atop tables.

    Instead of tackling the situation together, Goel along with party leaders Vijender Gupta and V.K. Malhotra, hurriedly left the scene while Harsh Vardhan, left to fend for himself alone, was heckled by the crowd.

    The only saving grace for the BJP, according to party members, is that Vardhan is a non-confrontational leader.

    But there is also a belief amongst many that Goel is largely responsible for the situation he is in at present.

    “He wanted to set up a parallel structure in the party with his own people and this did not go down well with the high command,” said a BJP leader.

    “Assuming that he would be the CM candidate when there was no official declaration was just one of the many slip-ups… his wings had to be clipped,” he said.