Harsh Vardhan to be BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate for Delhi polls: sources

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Harsh VardhanThe BJP, fighting a leadership battle in its Delhi unit, has reportedly picked former health minister Harsh Vardhan as its Chief Ministerial face for the December 4 polls in the capital.

The 58-year-old ENT specialist will be pitted against three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress and debutant Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The BJP’s parliamentary board, made up of its 12 top leaders, including party president Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari and others like Narendra Modi, LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, is expected to meet before a formal announcement at 11 am.

Dr Harsh Vardhan, a four-time MLA and a former union Health Minister who played a significant role in the national pulse polio campaign, won his party’s approval over rival Vijay Goel, who succeeded him as Delhi BJP president earlier this year.

Sources say what tipped the balance in his favour was his clean, non-controversial image, with corruption set to be one of the major election issues this year.

The BJP is banking on the mild-mannered doctor’s appeal among citizens, especially in the urban pockets of Delhi, where the Congress and AAP are seen to have made a head start in campaigning.

Even the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS is believed to have thrown its weight behind Dr Harsh Vardhan, but the party now has to see that he gets the backing of a deeply divided BJP unit in Delhi.

Sources say efforts are on to mollify Vijay Goel, who claims to enjoy the support of the party’s grassroots workers in Delhi and is said to be in a sulk over losing out on the Chief Ministerial dream at a time the party sees its best chance of making a comeback to power after 15 years. Mr Goel had earlier marched to the homes of party leaders with his supporters in a blatant show of strength.

Amid reports that Narendra Modi, the party’s presumptive Prime Minister, wanted an early declaration of a chief ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari reportedly held several meetings to settle the war within.

Mr Modi was believed to have told party leaders that the announcement of a clear leader in the Delhi polls was essential to combat the incumbent Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s common man pull effectively.