Does BJP have a CM face to take on Kejriwal in Delhi election or will it rely on Modi?

The BJP has not yet announced its chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Delhi assembly election.

Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint

The BJP has not yet announced its chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Delhi assembly election, even though the names of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and MP Manoj Tiwari are doing the rounds. Meanwhile, Delhi CM and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has already initiated an aggressive election campaign highlighting his government schemes.

ThePrint asks: Does BJP have a CM face to take on Kejriwal in Delhi election or will it rely on Modi?

Delhi BJP not going through leadership crisis. But PM Modi will still be part of all rallies

Sudhanshu Mittal
Senior BJP leader

As far as the BJP’s leadership in Delhi is concerned, the decision on who to project as the CM candidate is contingent on the party’s parliamentary committee. The BJP has not been in power for 20 years now in Delhi.

At the same time, it is important to note that there is no dearth of leadership when it comes to the BJP’s Delhi unit. We are not going through a leadership crisis. The people of Delhi are very much connected with leaders in the Delhi BJP.

On the question of whether the Delhi assembly election may become a Modi-led campaign, I think all political parties put their best foot forward. There is no question of playing it safe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will definitely be a part of all the BJP rallies. The party in its campaigns will also address the questions that have been raised by the AAP.

The results of the Jharkhand and Maharashtra assembly elections don’t change anything for the BJP’s prospects in other states. For the BJP, every election fought is important. The party believes that the previous elections fought have no bearing on the current ones. What matters most is winning.

Factionalism in the BJP is much more pronounced in Delhi than in any other UT and state

Sanjay Kumar
Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies 

The BJP has plenty of problems in Delhi, including not having a popular CM face. However, there are many claimants for BJP’s CM candidate in Delhi this time: Manoj Tiwari, Harsh Vardhan, Vijay Goel.

The difficulty is that factionalism within the BJP is much more pronounced in Delhi than in any other UT and state. If the BJP were to project just one candidate, then others would feel marginalised. Since the party has too many faces, the net result will be that the BJP will rely more on Modi. This will become a contest between Kejriwal and Modi. Only Modi in the BJP may be able to counter Kejriwal’s popularity in Delhi.

Vote bank in Delhi is divided into four broad economic categories; the rich, the middle class, the lower class and the poor. The AAP has amassed immense support from the lower and the poor sections of society. The BJP, however, enjoys support from the rich. It is now left to the middle class to decide who they will support. They constitute roughly 30 per cent to 35 per cent of the population.

Kejriwal’s popularity runs across caste lines. Even though Tiwari may hail from the Purvanchali community, Kejriwal has an advantage because he gave tickets to many Purvanchali AAP members in the 2015 Delhi assembly election. AAP’s work for this community will trump Tiwari’s identity politics. AAP is likely to be the front-runner in the coming election, with BJP grabbing possibly the second spot. It doesn’t seem like the Congress will be a strong contender.

BJP has too many leaders eyeing CM post, but Delhi has already chosen its leader

Somnath Bharti
Founding member, AAP 

CM Arvind Kejriwal’s performance in the last five years in Delhi is not just known in India but is also known all over the world. It is probably the first time in the history of Indian politics that a politician has delivered on what he had promised. However, the BJP hasn’t been able to deliver on its promises.

There is a lot of infighting in the BJP, although this is the party’s internal matter. Many BJP leaders are contending for the CM candidature, but I feel that Delhi has already chosen its CM. The BJP Delhi doesn’t have a captain right now. The contest is now between a team led by a strong captain (AAP) and a team where there is not even a whisper of who the captain is (BJP).

Modi becoming a face for all campaigns of the BJP speaks of bankruptcy in the party. He has been given central leadership and has other affairs to tend to. Moreover, people in Delhi want a strong local leadership, which the BJP lacks.

Questions of whether Kejriwal may lose the upper-class votes are just myths that have to be demystified. Our mohalla clinics in Safdarjung and Green Park are frequented by everybody, including people of the upper-class. Moreover, the AAP’s Tirth Yatra scheme opened the opportunity for people from Gulmohar Park and Hauz Khas to enjoy an unbelievable experience. Our schemes are attracting the upper-class also towards the AAP. Free electricity and water are for all.

With ‘Dilli chale Modi ke saath’ slogan, BJP is clearly relying on Modi for upcoming Delhi assembly election

Swadesh Singh
Assistant professor, Delhi University 

Now that the Delhi BJP has coined the slogan ‘Dilli chale Modi ke saath’, it becomes clear that the party is relying on Modi for the upcoming Delhi assembly election. The BJP delivered a masterstroke when it announced in October 2019 that 40 lakh people living in the national capital’s unauthorised colonies will be given ownership rights. This demand had been long overdue.

The AAP, the Congress and the BJP are major players in Delhi. Winning the 2020 assembly election is crucial for the BJP, which hasn’t been able to come to power in Delhi in the last twenty years. So, if it wins Delhi, it will become easier for the BJP government at the Centre to function smoothly and also implement policies accordingly. There have been instances when certain projects were stalled by the Kejriwal government, which turned out to be inconvenient for the Modi government.

In the 2015 Delhi assembly election, the Congress wasn’t able to secure any seats. The election was a sweeping victory for the AAP, which won 67 seats. It wasn’t a triangular fight back then. But if the Congress plays its cards well this time, the BJP will be at an advantage. This will reduce the chances of Kejriwal repeating his masterful performance of 2015.

Not having CM-worthy face is BJP’s Achilles’ heel in Delhi. It’ll look like desperation if it declares now

Shivam Vij
Contributing editor, ThePrint 

There are reports that the BJP may declare a chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Delhi assembly elections sometime this week. The only good reason for doing so would be to find a scapegoat. When the BJP loses the election, it can blame the CM candidate and not Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

That is exactly what happened in 2015 and in the case of the BJP, this can only be deliberate. Whether or not the BJP nominates a strong CM candidate is the wrong question to ask when only a month or so is left before the election. Fighting an assembly election around a declared CM candidate needs at least six months of active campaigning centred on that person. MP Manoj Tiwari seems to be the BJP’s preferred CM face for Delhi. But he has failed to display the gravitas needed for him to be seen as a potential chief minister; even if he succeeds in winning some Purvanchali votes, they won’t make much difference.

Not having a CM-worthy face has been the BJP’s Achilles heel in Delhi for years. It’s the only thing that prevents the party from winning Delhi. And announcing a CM candidate at the last moment will only seem like desperation, making AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal look even more likely to win the election.

Also read: BJP is set to announce its CM face to take on Kejriwal in Delhi. These are the contenders

By Kairvy Grewal, journalist at ThePrint