As rumblings in Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party over chief ministerial candidate continue, its chief Vijay Goel on Monday said he was not a contender for the position but sought an early decision on the contentious issue which has virtually split the party and derailed its campaign for the polls.
Replying to a volley of questions on the issue at a press conference, Goel, however, refused to give a direct answer when asked whether he will work with equal vigour if former Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is projected as the chief ministerial candidate.
"I am not a candidate for any post. The Parliamentary Board will take a decision on the issue (of chief ministerial candidate) taking views of the party workers," he said.
"In the past eight months I have neither named myself nor anyone else. The parliamentary board has to decide on who will be the chief ministerial candidate," he said.
Goel's comments came a day after he met top brass of BJP including Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi and expressed his serious opposition to Vardhan's candidature.
Favouring an early decision on the issue, he also rejected reports that he had threatened to resign from the post of Delhi BJP president if Vardhan was named as CM candidate.
"I have never threatened to resign," he said.
When asked about internal fissures in the party over the issue and whether the central leadership was delaying taking a decision on the matter, he said, "All decisions related to elections should be taken at the earliest."
When pressed whether he will continue to work if Parliamentary Board decides to project Vardhan for the chief minister's position, he said he will be able to react only after a decision is made.
"Party is supreme. Nothing happens on the basis of what I say. Party will take a final decision," he said.
A number of senior Delhi leaders are understood to have conveyed to the party leadership that they should announce the candidature of Vardhan who is believed to have wider acceptability among people, party leaders and workers.
Asked whether the party should project a CM candidate or not, Goel left it to the Parliamentary Board to decide. He said the party has at least four capable candidates for the chief minister's post.
Goel's supporters, however, said though their leader ruled out that being a contender for any post, still he was very much in the race.
Sources said the demand to make Vardhan the chief ministerial candidate has been growing considerably as number of senior leaders felt that projecting the former health minister, who has a "clean image", will help the party defeat the Congress government.
However, a section in the party was unsure whether projecting Vardhan for the top post would be beneficial for the party or not when Goel has already conveyed his strong opposition to such a move.
This section feels that announcing a chief ministerial candidate at this juncture just six weeks ahead of the polls could derail the party's campaign as there is a possibility of revolt by Goel's supporters.
"The parliamentary board will meet shortly and take a decision on the issue," said a senior leader.
The issue was discussed by top leaders of the party on Sunday.
A number of senior Delhi leaders of the party have already conveyed to central leaders their "deep anguish" over Goel's comments at a press conference last week projecting himself as BJP's popular face for CM.
In the press conference, rejecting reports that Vardhan was a frontrunner, Goel had said, "Opinion polls projected me against Sheila Dikshit. Look at the results of the opinion polls. My party is ahead and so am I."
A number of senior Delhi leaders have also conveyed to Delhi election in-charge Nitin Gadkari that Goel has violated party discipline by openly projecting himself as chief ministerial candidate.
Gadkari has maintained that the BJP Parliamentary Board will take a final decision on the issue.
Party sources said leaders including L K Advani, Modi, Swaraj and Ananth Kumar are in favour of declaring Vardhan as candidate for the top post.
They said the leadership is seriously concerned over the atmosphere in the party in the wake of the race for the chief ministerial candidature.
The BJP central leadership feels Delhi assembly elections are crucial ahead of Lok Sabha elections and the party cannot afford to lose it for the fourth time in a row.
Image: BJP leader Vijay Goel