In the aftermath of the Congress’ loss in the recent Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections and last month’s Bawana by-election, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president Ajay Maken is seeking to play down all speculation of getting sacked from his post.
Refraining from diving into details, Maken only said, “My opponents underestimate me.”
Speculation about Maken’s sacking has essentially emanated from the Sheila Dikshit camp. Dikshit has been a long-standing rival of Maken. People close to the Dikshit camp are of the opinion that Maken has outlived his utility and should be immediately removed. Supporters of J.P. Aggarwal, former DPCC head, have also voiced their concern about the divisions that have taken place under Maken’s leadership and want to see Maken replaced with someone who can take the party ahead in an united fashion.
Congress sources said that speculation over Maken’s sacking started due to his proximity to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. According to sources, despite Maken’s closeness to Rahul Gandhi, he had been finding it hard to get appointments with Gandhi.
People aware of the top leadership’s functioning are of the view that senior leaders in the party generally cut down on appointments for people they are unhappy with.
Maken’s role as DPCC chief came under severe scrutiny after the Congress lost the MCD elections and Bawana byelection. While Maken maintained that Congress had increased its percentage of vote share in several constituencies, senior leaders wanted to see results in terms of the constituencies won.
In August, Bawana constituency, one of the largest in Delhi by way of number of electors, went for a bypoll and saw a 45% voter turnout, which was much lower than the 2015 Asssembly elections that recorded a 62% polling.
In the Bawana bypoll, Congress was pushed to the third spot with 31,919 votes, while BJP came second with 35,834 votes and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) secured the seat with 59,886 votes. On the other hand, in the Rajouri Garden bypoll, held earlier, Congress managed to finish second, while the BJP wrested the seat from AAP.
While in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress’ vote share was 11.26%, it came down to 7.87% in the 2015 Assembly elections. In the 2017 bypolls, Congress’ vote percentage jumped to 24.21%. On the other hand, the BJP’s vote share was 47% in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the AAP’s was 38.12%. In the 2015 Assembly elections, the BJP’s vote share was 31.40% and the AAP’s was 57.91%.
Commenting on speculation of Maken’s sacking, a source close to Maken said, “The current DPCC president is a loyal soldier of Congress. He was given a role and he performed well. He is going to stay in DPCC for the next Assembly elections and will run for the Delhi Chief Minister’s post. Maken has met Rahul Gandhi recently; these speculations hold no truth.”