It was then Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta who said soon after the AAP won the MCD polls that their councillors would act as a “strong opposition” and not contest the mayor and deputy mayor polls, scheduled for January 6.
Asked why the party had changed its mind, BJP working president Virendra Sachdeva said: “We never officially said that we will not contest. We always said we will tell you when the time comes. And we did.”
Sachdeva added: “Elections are never one-sided… There are always two people fighting for one post. So, we have nominated our best candidates who have experience and are educated… Whatever the results, we will fight and give our best.”
A senior BJP member said Gupta was “out of favour” and hence not speaking for the party when he said what he did. “Even when (BJP MLA Ramvir Singh) Bidhuri told the media that the BJP will not contest, he said this was not official. The BJP has 105 seats, including an Independent who has joined us. Why should we not contest?”
The leader added that the party would go about the elections “in a planned manner”. “We have separate strategies for mayor and deputy mayor polls and that for members of the Standing Committee.”
At the same time, sources said, the BJP’s focus will be getting as many people elected to the Standing Committee as it can. The committee is the second most powerful body in the corporation after the house of councillors in the MCD. All the proposals and schemes are presented before the Committee for approval before these are sent to the house. No administrative or financial decision can be taken in the MCD without the approval of the Standing Committee.
A party leader said: “There are a total 18 members in the Standing Committee, 12 to be selected through ward-level elections and six through MCD house elections. Of the six members, the AAP has a hold over three seats and the BJP two. Both parties have balance votes for the remaining seat.”
About the mayoral election, a source said, “The AAP has 150 votes, but we are certain it will not get more than 140. There are rebellious leaders inside the AAP, and it is clear from the party nominating two more persons for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor… It shows a lack of unity.” The AAP has said that the two additional nominees are “backup” candidates.
To reinforce its message that the AAP has sidelined the Vaishya community and Purvanchalis, the BJP has picked Rekha Gupta, a Vaishya, as its mayor choice.
A BJP leader pointed out that the voting patterns showed that the party retains its support, and could have even won East and South MCD had the different corporation wings not been unified into one body. “Reunification has cost the BJP as only West Delhi supported the AAP massively… North and East Delhi supported the BJP and even in the South, the support was balanced.”
The AAP, which had earlier named Shelly Oberoi and Aale Mohammad Iqbal as its mayor and deputy mayor candidates, on Tuesday got two other corporators – Ashu Thakur and Jalaj Kumar – to file their nominations for the two posts, respectively.
Asked about the fresh nominations, senior AAP leaders said these were a safety net, to guard against the eventuality of nominations of the original candidates not being accepted. “Nomination acceptance and rejection are done by officers, but there can be pressure from the BJP. We received information that the BJP is pressuring officers, and we know it can stoop to any level… It is the party that deployed 20 goons as proxy candidates to stop Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from filing nominations during the 2020 Assembly polls… If they can do this with a CM, these are just councillors… ,” AAP national spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said, adding that if there were no hitches in Oberoi’s and Iqbal’s nominations, the backup candidates would withdraw.
Denying the AAP’s claims of “pressure”, the BJP said the double nominations were a “clear” sign of rebellion and that the party was “changing its pre-announced candidates” due to this.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said, “For the first time in the history of the MCD, two sets of nominations have been filed for the post of mayor, deputy mayor. In the MCD, there is no separate scrutiny of nominations… The corporation secretariat accepts or rejects the nomination after checking all the information provided by a candidate. In this case, all the nominations have already been accepted. This shows that the AAP is divided.”