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|November 28, 1998||
The knives are out as BJP plunges to its worst-ever defeat in Delhi
George Iype in Delhi
Having received its worst-ever drubbing in the Delhi assembly election, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership on Saturday mulled over a series of uncomfortable questions.
While the party's city leaders accused each other for the defeat, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP president Shashikant 'Kushabhau' Thakre and Home Minister L K Advani did some plain talking to the warring leaders -- Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana, former chief minister Sahib Singh Verma and Chief Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Soon after news of the debacle started trickling in, Swaraj is learnt to have met the prime minister and requested him to induct her back into the Union Cabinet. Sources said Swaraj is not interested in becoming leader of the Opposition in the Delhi assembly.
Khurana and Verma also met the BJP leadership, only to blame each other for the party's rout in Delhi.
The growing rift between the two men had forced the party leadership to sack Verma as chief minister in October and appoint Swaraj to lead the party before the assembly poll.
Swaraj, who held the communications and information and broadcasting ministries in the Vajpayee Cabinet, emerged as a compromise candidate after Verma and Khurana bitterly fought for the right to lead the BJP in the Delhi poll.
"The clash between Verma and Khurana is the main reason for the party's defeat in the election. The party is in for more infighting if the leadership fails to rein in Khurana and Verma," a Delhi BJP leader told Rediff On The NeT.
The BJP strategists has won all the elections in the capital since 1989. In the March general election, the BJP had taken the lead in more than 50 assembly constituencies.
Khurana supporters claim the party high command's decision to turn down his recommendation to hold assembly polls along with the general election in March is the main reason for the rout.
"I feel the BJP would have done better if the assembly election was held along with the parliamentary poll early this year," Vijay Goel, MP and a Khurana supporter, told Rediff On The NeT.
"It is also true that the party failed to show a united face after ruling the city for five years," the MP admitted.
While the defeat in Delhi is seen to be a big setback for Swaraj, Verma said the party could have done much better had he not been removed as chief minister on the eve of the election.
"There were many local issues which helped the Congress to win the Delhi assembly election. But personally I feel changing the chief minister one month before the poll seriously affected the party's image," Verma told Rediff On The NeT at BJP headquarters.
The party's debacle in Delhi will put Prime Minister Vajpayee in a dilemma. Vajpayee had promised to induct Verma into his Cabinet when the latter stepped down as chief minister.
Hoping to become a minister at the Centre, Verma did not contest the assembly poll. But the BJP leadership feel the party suffered a major setback in Outer Delhi, Verma's pocket borough.
Since Verma is being held responsible for the party's rout, it is unlikely the prime minister will now include him in the Cabinet.
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