New Delhi: Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goels`s assertion that he was a popular choice for chief ministerial post has triggered rumblings in the party, threatening to derail its campaign to capture power in the capital after 15 years.
A number of senior Delhi leaders of the party conveyed to central leaders their "deep anguish" over the "tone and tenor" of Goel`s comments projecting himself as BJP`s popular face for the top post amid growing speculation that former minister Harsh Vardhan was a front runner.
Sources said the central leadership of the party as well as most of the Delhi leaders are "annoyed" with Goel`s comments when the party has been maintaining that its Parliamentary Board will take a decision on the issue.
"The party leadership is concerned over the whole atmosphere and will take necessary steps," former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta told.
A number of senior Delhi leaders are understood to have conveyed to Delhi election in-charge Nitin Gadkari that Goel has violated party discipline by openly projecting himself as chief ministerial candidate and indicating that he will not be happy if someone else was chosen for the post.
Goel, who was appointed Delhi BJP President in February, is believed to have conveyed his reservation to senior leaders about making Harshvardhan the chief ministerial candidate.
"Opinion polls projected me against Sheila Dikshit. Look at the results of the opinion polls. My party is ahead and so am I," Goel had said at a press conference yesterday virtually rejecting reports that Vardhan was a front runner.
BJP Parliamentary Board is likely to meet on October 20 where the issue may be taken up.
When asked about the issue, Gadkari said it was the prerogative of the party president and the Parliamentary Board to take a call on the CM candidate.
"It has not been decided yet. It would be decided when the party president calls a meeting of the Parliamentary Board. The President has to decide and when he finds a suitable time, he would announce it," said, Gadkari insisting that the party was totally united.
Asked about scores of party workers opposed to Goel meeting him, he said "This is a democratic party and everyone has a right express grievances. They had come, spoken out their mind and went away chanting slogans in favour of the party."
A number of senior Delhi leaders are understood to have conveyed to the party leadership that they should announce the candidature of Vardhan who is believed to have wider acceptability among people, party leaders and workers.
Party sources said leaders including L K Advani, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar are in favour of declaring Vardhan as candidate for the top post.
They said the leadership is seriously concerned over the atmosphere in the party in the wake of the race for the chief ministerial candidature.
"The whole issue has created a perception that ours is a divided house. It will definitely have a negative impact among the party supporters," said a senior Delhi leader.
He said Vardhan, a former Delhi minister and senior party leader, has a clean image and that he would be able to put up a united fight to dethrone the Congress dispensation.
Almost all 14 district presidents have conveyed to Gadkari their support to Goel.
Reflecting divisions in the organisation, scores of party workers opposed to Goel had gathered outside BJP headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road here and shouted slogans.
The central leadership of BJP feels Delhi Assembly elections are crucial ahead of Lok Sabha elections and the party cannot afford to lose it for the fourth time in a row.
The stakes for the party are high in view of the campaign being mounted for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.