New Delhi: After days of indecision, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday named medical doctor and former state health minister Harsh Vardhan as its Delhi chief ministerial (CM) candidate, despite state party chief Vijay Goel's claims.
The announcement came following a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board which was attended, among others, by party president Rajnath Singh and senior leader L.K. Advani.
Making the announcement at the Ashoka Road BJP office, Rajnath Singh said: "The central parliamentary board has unanimously decided to project Harsh Vardhan as the BJP's chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi elections."
He also said Goel met party leaders Sunday and consented to the decision.
Backing Harsh Vardhan, Advani said the decision to name him as Delhi's chief ministerial candidate was "unanimous".
"Harsh Vardhan is best amongst all and enjoys the confidence of the people of Delhi," said party leader Nitin Gadkari, also the Delhi election in-charge. Senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi and ex-mayor Arti Mehra were also present.
BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi too congratulated Harsh Vardhan on micro-blogging site Twitter. "Congratulations to Harsh Vardhan on being named BJP's CM candidate for upcoming Delhi elections. My best wishes."
After the announcement, Harsh Vardhan offered sweets to Goel and the latter also greeted him.
An ENT specialist, the BJP leader enjoys wide party support and has a "clean image", which according to party sources led to his selection.
Speaking to reporters, Harsh Vardhan said he would rid the people of Delhi from Congress's misrule.
"I would like to assure the people of Delhi that with their blessings we will win the upcoming elections and free them from corrupt Congress's misrule - first in Delhi and then at the centre," he said.
Goel, who was pitching for the top post, said he was "not upset" with the decision.
"There are times when certain decisions are not to your liking but I have never violated the party's discipline and the party as well as the workers have always loved and supported me," he told reporters.
"I was never upset with the party nor will I ever be in the future," he added.
The announcement ended days of speculation on Goel who was trying to project himself for the post. Media reports suggested Goel had threatened to resign from his post if Harsh Vardhan was projected as the chief minister - a charge refuted by Goel and senior party leaders.
Within moments of the announcement, party workers, especially Harsh Vardhan's supporters, erupted in joy and started bursting crackers and danced outside the party office.
Harsh Vardhan was elected from Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi for the first time in 1993 and went on to retain that seat in the 1998, 2003 and 2008 assembly elections.
Harsh Vardhan held portfolios of education, law and health minister in the BJP government in Delhi from 1993 to 1998. He is married to Nutan, a specialist in hospital administration. He has two sons and a daughter.
This the second time when BJP did not declare its unit chief as the chief minister candidate.
In 2008, though Harsh Vardhan was the party's state unit chief, it was senior leader V.K. Malhotra who was chosen as the chief ministerial candidate, a move blamed for the party's defeat in the assembly polls. BJP has 24 seats in the 70-member assembly, while Congress has 43 seats.
Taking a dig at Harsh Vardhan, Aam Aadmi Party's leader Arvind Kejriwal asked whether the BJP's chief ministerial candidate was the party's "Manmohan Singh in Delhi".
"Is Harsh Vardhan BJP's Manmohan Singh in Delhi? A corrupt Congress made Manmohan Singh its face at the centre. Manmohan failed to check corruption within the Congress and in his own government. A corrupt BJP has now made Harsh Vardhan its face in Delhi," tweeted Kejriwal.
"What did Harsh Vardhan do all these years to check BJP's corruption in municipal corporations," Kejriwal asked.
Incumbent chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit said: "I am not going to comment on any political party or its decision. Selection and appointment is a party's internal matter," she said when reporters asked her the question.
Polling in Delhi is scheduled Dec 4 and votes will be counted Dec 8.