Internal rift afflicts political parties; BJP and AAP find it difficult to pacify the disgruntled lot
Delhi Assembly election is poised to be unpredictable, and interesting as well. Main contenders – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) are struggling hard to keep their houses in order. While a powerful faction of BJP is upset with the induction and projection of Kiran Bedi as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, the Congress is facing a leadership crisis. Both old-timers and present state leaders are disappointed with the projection of Ajay Maken as the party’s face. Denial of tickets by these three political parties to many worthy aspirants only added fuel to fire. Internal rift in AAP has widened because of the ‘one-man show.’
Induction and Projection of Kiran Bedi
Denial of tickets to senior leaders and local party workers with substantial clout, sidelining of Delhi veterans, para-dropping of Kiran Bedi, less than expected tickets to Purvanchali leaders are main reasons why BJP cadre have been harbouring the feeling of being let down. These unilateral moves by the BJP central leadership have also frustrated some senior Delhi leaders. The BJP, eying a majority, cannot afford internal squabbles, scuffles, protests and lobbying, which can reduce its numbers. But the damage has already been done and intermittent outbursts only reflected deep discontentment among the party leaders and workers.
According to the political observers, while Bedi is campaigning for all BJP candidates, her own constituency, Krishna Nagar is not safe because of internal rift. The BJP has fielded Bedi against AAP candidate SK Bagga. If political pundits are to be believed, many forces are working against her. BJP leaders such as VK Malhotra, Vijay Goyal, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Jagdish Mukhi, Vijendra Gupta among others who have large followings, and their supporters want their favourites to occupy the top seat. But ‘outsider’ Bedi has spoiled their chances. Supporters are out to take ‘revenge.’ They are well aware that if the BJP gets a majority and Bedi occupies the top seat, the other BJP heavyweights would never be able to replace her, even though they have worked many decades for the party. This ‘feeling’ is quite strong among the veterans and the central leadership is also aware of this. Absence of strong second-line state leaders is also taking its toll.
Denial of tickets
As soon as the political parties declared their candidates, dissatisfaction among those who were denied tickets became evident. By and large, this feeling would have mild to moderate impact on voting. Both the BJP and the Congress denied tickets to their state party chiefs. Supporters of Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhaya even staged protest. The fact that Ajay Maken took centre stage, did not go down well among the supporters of Arvinder Singh Lovely, the Delhi Congress chief. Moreover, the Congress denied ticket to its dalit face, ex-MP and former Union Minister Krishna Tirath. As a sign of protest, she quit the party and joined BJP. Departure of a strong dalit leader was obviously a big blow to the party. The problem compounded for BJP when the party cadre showed signs of agitation for denying tickets to those who lost by a thin margin in the 2013 Assembly polls. To cite an example, senior leader Jai Bhagwan Aggarwal from Rohini was replaced by former state BJP chief Vijender Gupta. Dhir Singh Bidhuri (resigned from BJP), Shikha Rai, ( Delhi BJP Vice President) and Abhay Verma are among those who were denied tickets and their supporters have not taken that sportingly.
Dissent within AAP
The AAP is a formidable force in Delhi and the number of ticket seekers was quite high. But so-called transparent process of ticket distribution left many aspirants high and dry. The party even replaced one of its candidates at the last moment because of adverse reports. Now those opposed to AAP chief’s style of functioning are out to discredit him, especially, on the issue of funding. Two of its veterans – MS Dhir and Vinod Kumar Binny are in BJP camp and contesting.
The political parties have their hands full trying to pacify the disgruntled workers who have been denied the poll ticket. Pacifying those veterans who feel sidelined is far more difficult as they are not ‘doing’ anything ‘damaging’ for their party ‘openly.’ You ask any senior leader about ticket distribution and a cliched response would be – “There were thousands of applications for the party ticket for the 70 assembly constituencies and it is quite logical that some leaders would be disappointed.”
Last-minute effort to address the rift
Protests and disappointment over ticket distribution are part of electoral politics. After the initial furore ebbs down, the parties settle the issues and fight elections by putting up a united front. However, these issues in Delhi assembly elections are likely to remain unresolved and the parties could pay a heavy price for the rift. The campaigning has ended. For the BJP and AAP it is the prime time to focus on sorting out internal rift among their leaders. A demoralized Congress has not much to do, but it has to win some seats for survival. Stakes are high for the BJP and the AAP would find it arduous to regain the lost ground with its key names such as Kumar Vishwas and Prashant Bhushan conspicuously missing from the poll campaign.