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BJP looks to hem in Arvind Kejriwal, rolls out big guns for MCD polls for first time

Himanta Biswa Sarma, Pushkar Dhami, Jai Ram Thakur, and Manohar Lal Khattar addressed public events in the national Capital on Sunday; Yogi Adityanath to campaign in coming days. BJP said to be nervous about “optics and space” occupied by AAP ahead of Gujarat elections.

BJP President JP Nadda at a road show in Sangam Vihar in South Delhi (Twitter: Jagat Prakash Nadda)

The BJP on Sunday rallied four chief ministers, its national president JP Nadda, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for a massive show of strength in the run-up to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) election on December 4.

The roadshows, party leaders said, were a “huge success”. In the coming days, the national capital will see more of the party’s top leaders, including Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityananth, deployed for campaigning for the elections to 250 wards in the national Capital, said a source.

This is in line with the party’s stand that “no election is less important”. But party leaders admitted it was the first time the BJP was rolling out its heaviest artillery ahead of a civic election. BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda told The Indian Express, “As the largest political party, the BJP has the luxury of several popular faces. It will be a shame to not have them speak to the public in Delhi. Because Delhi shapes the national and international narrative for India. Also, we do not want to hold an election in which only the state government of Delhi plays a role.”

The MCD polls are expected to be a three-way fight between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the BJP, and the Congress. The BJP, which has been ruling the MCD for 15 years, is facing a tough fight from the AAP to retain control of the civic body for the fourth straight term.

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With the top leadership of the party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, busy with Gujarat elections, the party has had a discussion about its MCD poll campaign. “In the meeting attended by Nadda ji and (general secretary for organisation) BL Santhosh, the view was that we should not just leave our galaxy of leaders — who in their individual capacity have different constituencies — unutilised. The question was why should we leave this election as a one-man show by Arvind Kejriwal for the AAP and that the BJP should not follow the strategies of the AAP,” a party leader familiar with the developments said, adding, “We decided to reset the term of engagement.”

Among the top leaders who have campaigned is Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma who is increasingly becoming one of the BJP’s most sought-after campaigners in state elections. Sarma made a clear attempt to consolidate Hindu majority votes by raking up Kejriwal’s alleged anti-Hindu position on matters, seeking a law against “love jihad”, and Uniform Civil Code, among other issues.

in the run-up to the Uttarakhand Assembly elections earlier this year, the BJP, in Sarma’s presence, had assured it would set up a panel to draft UCC if voted back to power. “Our country doesn’t need Aftab (the accused in the Shraddha Walkar murder case) but a person like Lord Ram, a leader like Prime Minister Modi. We need a Uniform Civil Code and law against ‘love jihad’. We need such laws where Aftabs can be hanged to death,” Sarma was heard saying in a video of a roadshow in the national Capital on Sunday. With initiatives such as the demolition of madrasas and statements painting Opposition leaders as anti-Hindu, Sarma has now become one of the aggressive faces of the BJP.

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The other CMs who attended Sunday’s roadshows in Delhi were Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur, his Uttarakhand counterpart Pushkar Dhami, and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar.

Rallying its big guns against Kejriwal and the AAP is also a strategy to keep the Delhi CM tied to the national capital since his stakes in the local elections are high. Kejriwal has often blamed the BJP’s dominance in local bodies as a hurdle for the developmental initiatives his government plans to take in Delhi.

The BJP is nervous about the “optics and the space” occupied by the AAP and Kejriwal in the campaign ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections. “The party’s strategists do not like the idea of projecting the Gujarat elections as Modi versus Kejriwal or BJP versus AAP. A hectic campaign in Delhi is something the AAP cannot stay away from,” said a BJP leader.

First published on: 21-11-2022 at 17:34 IST
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