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Assembly battle soon but Delhi Congress headless

Assembly battle soon but Delhi Congress headless

New Delhi: Even after close to a month since Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit passed away, the grand old party is struggling to find a replacement in the national capital where Assembly elections will be held in about six months.

The deliberations on the next head have propped up speculation that among those being considered for the top job are cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu from Punjab and Bihar’s actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Singh.

The Delhi unit admits it too is in the dark.

“We have no role in the selection of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief. It is for senior party leaders to decide,” one Delhi leader said.

Requesting anonymity, a senior party leader said the party was yet to find a face with as much public appeal as Dikshit, who was three-time Chief Minister of Delhi.

“There cannot be a replacement for Dikshit. Also, in a short period, the new chief will have a responsibility to lead the party in the Assembly elections. The party has some names in mind but this will be too soon to say anything,” the leader said.

“The Congress had no President after Rahul Gandhi resigned. Now, Sonia Gandhi has taken over. So we are expecting a name to be announced by August end.”

Among the leaders in the Delhi unit are its three Working Presidents — Haroon Yusuf, Devender Yadav and Rajesh Lilothia, who are relatively junior to other leaders including Ajay Maken, Arvinder Singh Lovely and J.P. Agarwal.

Maken had been a DPCC chief earlier and had resigned because of health issues while other leaders do not have a mass appeal like Dikshit.

Lovely could also have been a potential leader but for his switching over to the BJP for a short period.

The Assembly polls in Delhi are crucial for the Congress as it will given an opening to bounce back in a city it ruled for 15 long years until an AAP tsunami destroyed it — sweeping 67 of the 70 seats in 2015. Three seats went to the BJP.

While the Congress is looking for a face in Delhi, its rivals BJP and AAP have already started work on fighting the Assembly elections.

The death of Dikshit on July 20 came as a shock to the Congress, which now has no leader of her stature.

The 81-year-old was Delhi Chief Minister from 1998 and 2013 and was named the party chief in January, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, to strengthen the party in the city.

After ruling the city for 15 years, the Congress secured a vote share of 24.55 per cent in the 2013 Assembly polls, which dropped to just 9.65 per cent in the 2015 Assembly polls.

After Dikshit came back as chief, the Congress vote share went up to 22.46 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from 15.10 per cent in 2014. Under her leadership, the Congress secured the second position in Delhi after the BJP, from being third in recent elections.

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