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|November 28, 1998||
Hectic race in Congress for ministerial posts
George Iype in Delhi
An overwhelming victory for the Congress in the Delhi assembly election has spurred local leaders to scramble for the seven ministerial berths and other key posts in the New Delhi government.
Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Shiela Dikshit, who defeated Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and former cricketer Kirti Azad in Gole Market, is the front runner for the chief minister's post.
But there are at least three other chief ministerial aspirants who are planning to write to Congress president Sonia Gandhi that a "Delhi-ite" and not Dikshit should be made the capital's chief minister.
They are former DPCC president Deep Chand Bandhu, Prem Singh, the party's key leader in Outer Delhi, and prominent Sikh leader Mahender Singh Sathi.
While Bandhu claims to be the "true leader" of the city Congress for more than three decades, Singh hopes to play the backward community card before Sonia. Sathi's supporters claim the chief minister's post should be bestowed on him as he is a Sikh and the party at this juncture needs to appease the Sikh community.
But a large section of city Congress leaders feel that Dikshit should be chosen as chief minister as she is credited with having rejuvenated the party after taking over as DPCC president earlier this year.
"Dikshit led the party to victory. Therefore, she is the right candidate for the post," senior city Congress leader Jag Pravesh Chandra told Rediff On The NeT.
Dikshit said it is the high command and the MLAs' prerogative to choose the right leader as chief minister.
"I take pride in the fact that the Congress has romped home to a grand victory under my leadership in the city. Now it is for the party leadership to decide whether I should be chief minister or not," she told Rediff On The NeT at the Congress headquarters.
Dikshit claimed there is no lobbying within the DPCC or among senior leaders for the chief minister's post and other ministerial berths. "Our major challenge was to defeat the BJP which has mismanaged the country's capital for many years," she said.
"The Congress in the capital is a united force and the new government will pledge to make the city a place worth living. The BJP has made the city India's disaster capital in the last five years," she said.
Asked what her priorities would be if she is chosen to head the city government, Dikshit said: "I will clamp down on traders and blackmarketers who artificially created price rise and remove lawlessness and anarchy in the city."
While the Congress Working Committee will meet on Sunday to decide the chief ministerial candidates for Delhi and other states, former members of Parliament and senior Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, H K L Bhagat and J P Aggarwal are expected to force Dikshit to accommodate their candidate in the new ministry.
Nearly 15 newly-elected Congress MLAs are Sajjan Kumar's supporters and therefore the controversial politician is certain to have a major say in the cabinet formation.
From East and Outer Delhi, there are at least seven ministerial aspirants. They include DPCC vice president Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, Congress secretary Dr S C Vats and senior leaders like Dr A K Walia, Zile Singh Chauhan and Dr Narender Nath.
From South Delhi, which has 10 assembly segments, the ministerial claimants include Ajay Maken, Subhash Chopra and Yoganand Shastri.
Other serious ministerial aspirants are Jagdish Anand from Sadar, Haroon Yusuf from Chandni Chawk and Krishna Tirath from Karol Bagh.
Dikshit is expected to decide on her council of ministers after discussing it with Sonia Gandhi and keeping in view the caste and religion equations of candidates. Sources said she would probably step down as DPCC president once she takes up the chief minister's post.
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