Sharmistha Mukherjee and Mahabal Mishra are among the front-runners.
The Delhi Pradesh Congress, which is currently headless following Ajay Maken’s resignation in September this year, is likely to get its new chief by January next year to lead the party into the Lok Sabha elections, as well as the Delhi Assembly elections due in January 2020, according to highly placed party sources in the Congress.
Sources in the national Congress also said that the search for a new party chief for Delhi is on, but the announcement could take some time since the senior leadership of the party is busy with elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior Congress functionary told this correspondent: “The entire party senior leadership is busy with elections in these three states; therefore, it could take some time for any announcement to come in. Once the elections are over, it is likely that the new party president for Delhi would be announced.”
“It is imperative for the party to decide on a candidate by January next year as Delhi is going to face Assembly elections sometime in January 2020 and it will take at least a year for the new party chief to get things in order for the party and start campaigning to bounce back. The party had seen a complete washout in Delhi during the 2015 elections,” the senior Congress leader added.
A section of party workers in Delhi wants Arvinder Singh Lovely as the PCC chief in Delhi. These party workers feel that Lovely has experience of Delhi as he was also a Cabinet minister in the Sheila Dikshit government and had been the PCC chief during the 2015 elections.
However, another section of party workers does not want Lovely to be their leader as he had switched over to the BJP in April 2017. This section has questioned Lovely’s loyalty towards the party.
A Delhi Congress worker said, “Arvinder Singh lovely is not a choice for Delhi Congress chief. He has no loyalty towards the party. When the party was in trouble, he switched over for greener pastures; we do not want anybody like that to lead us.”
According to party sources, veteran Congress leader Mahabal Mishra is one of the frontrunners for the post owing to his Purvanchali background. At least 30-40 lakh of 2.5 crore of Delhi’s total population are Purvanchalis and they impact quite a significant number of seats in Delhi.
The BJP had also appointed Manoj Tiwari, who belongs from the Purvanchal region, as the Delhi party chief in 2016. The Aam Aadmi Party has some 11 legislators from Purvanchal and AAP’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh is also a Purvanchali.
However, Mahabal Mishra told The Sunday Guardian, “It is up to the party high command to decide who would be Delhi PCC president. As of now, we do not have any knowledge of who could be the president.”
Other names that are doing the rounds include that party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of veteran Congress leader and former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee.
Sources in the party have said that she is another frontrunner for the post since she has made a base in Delhi and is also one of the most known faces of the Congress in Delhi in recent times. Also, as she is a Bengali and with Delhi having a huge Bengali population, she could be made the PCC chief.
Sandeep Dikshit, son of former Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit, has also surfaced for the post of PCC chief. However, Sandeep Dikshit has denied any such claims. Speaking to this newspaper, he said, “I do not have any idea about the post of PCC chief in Delhi. I have not been in touch with the Delhi Congress for the last four years.”
Ajay Maken had resigned from the post of Delhi PCC president in September this year owing to health reasons and he had been travelling abroad for treatment. He had also said that he would not be able to lead the party due to health reasons.
Maken had been one of the strongest opponents of an alliance with the AAP in Delhi and had on several occasions expressed his displeasure on any kind of understanding with the AAP.
The central leadership in the Congress is, however, keen on an alliance with the AAP in Delhi and Haryana.
However, according to many party workers in Delhi, Maken had lifted the party from the shambles it was reduced to after the humiliating poll debacle in 2015 and the party was getting a fresh lease of life under his leadership.
A Congress worker from Delhi told this correspondent, “Just when the party was picking up pace to fight the AAP and BJP in Delhi and the organisation was re-gaining its strength under Maken’s leadership, he fell ill. Now, once again, the party and its workers are jittery as to who would lead them in the 2019 LS polls.”