The Election Commission has announced the dates of Delhi Assembly elections, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi is now set to go to polls in less than a month’s time. While the voting will take place on February 8, counting will take place on February 11. The BJP faces the problem of plenty to choose from as far as the Chief Ministerial candidate is concerned.
One of the many options that the BJP has for the top post, is Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Civil Aviation and also the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs. His rich experience as a retired diplomat spanning almost four decades. During his career, he held several important diplomatic posts including Indian ambassador to Brazil where he played a crucial role in expansion of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) partnership and diplomatic posts in United Kingdom, Japan and Sri Lanka. He was also the Coordinator of UNCTAD Multilateral Trade Negotiations Project in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations between the years 1988 to 1991.
Moreover, his antecedents also make him highly relevant to Delhi’s political landscape. Punjabis from a crucial voter base in Delhi and the BJP is traditionally known as the party of Punjabis and Baniyas in Delhi. Puri’s Punjabi antecedents will, therefore, help the BJP in solidifying its Punjabi voter base as the Punjabis will appreciate the move. This will also help the BJP in formulating an effective social engineering formula, with its state president Manoj Tiwari, a Purvanchali icon attracting the influential Purvanchali voter base in Delhi.
Puri assumed the charge of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry in September 2017. He has had a fulfilling and successful run, especially with the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. The ambitious scheme has been a great success under the watch of the diplomat-turned politician and is very much on the path of achieving the goal of Housing for All by the year 2022. By February 2018 itself, the shortfall of houses got revised from 18 million to 11 million. As such Hardeep Singh is an able administrator- the kind Delhi needs and deserves.
His rich experience illustrates his capabilities as a brilliant, development-oriented administrator. This makes him just the kind of vision-oriented administrator that Delhi requires. While Kejriwal remained the epitome of populism throughout his tenure, Puri will be the kind that will rid Delhi of Kejriwal’s populist brand of politics. Puri had hit out at Kejriwal when the latter had made the disastrous move of promising free bus and metro rides to women. The Union Minister has also shown the ability to tackle environmental concerns faced by the National Capital. Last year, Puri had confirmed that no trees would be cut for redeveloping the government colonies, setting at rest the controversy surrounding the construction of 25,000 flats for government employees across seven colonies in South Delhi.
Many names including Meenakshi Lekhi and Parvesh Verma have been doing the rounds as far as the question of announcing the Delhi Chief Ministerial candidate is concerned. However, the BJP is wary of announcing any particular candidate because the party is divided into factions in Delhi. The fear is that announcing a particular candidate might spark disillusionment among certain factions in Delhi. But this is not the case with Hardeep Singh Puri, who with all his experience, seniority and formidable personality is just the kind of uniting factor that the BJP could go forward with. His Punjabi background will also help the BJP in engineering a decisive Purvanchali-Punjabi social coalition. Therefore, Hardeep Singh Puri might just be the man who can lead the BJP to a decisive victory in the National Capital.