Kapil Mishra to Bagga, polarising faces take centre stage in Delhi BJP

The choice of Tiwari’s successor might indicate the “high command’s” thinking.
For decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) struggled to identify, nurture, and project a person to lead the party in Delhi, which was one of its bastions since the days of the Bha­ratiya Jana Sangh. By the BJP’s own reckoning, Madan Lal Khurana was the last leader of consequence, until he was done in by factional feuds. 

When Sahib Singh Verma was picked to replace Khurana as chief minister, it was regarded as an “unconventional” move because Verma was a Jat. It was recognised that Delhi’s demography had moved beyond the Punjabi-dominated core to newly empowered social groupings and the BJP’s command structures should reflect the trend.  

The next significant change in the population composition was brought about by migrants, largely from undivided Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The BJP could not take advantage of the transformation for want of a suitable leader until it chanced upon Manoj Tiwari, the North-East Delhi MP. Tiwari’s appeal is sectional.

“At times, circumstances help instead of a concerted search. The recent Assembly election threw up an array of talent,” a Delhi BJP source said, adding, “If we apply our minds to it, we have enough time to foster a new line-up.” 

The choice of Tiwari’s successor might indicate the “high command’s” thinking. The line-up being talked about is a diverse assemblage, which articulates the party’s hardline ideology. Meet the protagonists:

Kapil Mishra: “Our chartbuster,” a source remarked. Mishra’s communal statements against anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters at Shaheen Bagh and other hubs were believed to be a “push factor” for the cycle of violence in north-east Delhi, to which he belongs. A former Greenpeace and Amnesty employee, Mishra was co-founder of Youth for Justice, which worked on issues like farmer suicides and “encroachments” on the Yamuna river bank. He was a natural candidate for Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption. He won the 2015 election from Karawal Nagar on an Aam Admi Party (AAP) ticket, but fell out with Kejriwal. Mishra joined the BJP in 2019 but lost the 2020 election. The BJP doesn’t take kindly to losers. Mishra is an exception — he was given Y+ security cover because of a “serious threat perception” to his life.

Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga: The Delhi BJP’s “social media warrior” who registered his presence back in 2013, when he protested outside L K Advani’s residence for opposing Narendra Modi’s candidacy as PM. Bagga was always the BJP’s cat’s paw. He once allegedly barged into lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan’s chamber and roughed him up and heckled author Arundhati Roy at her book launch. As a member of the 150 “super-exclusive” club of media influencers, he was invited to a private interaction with Modi in 2017. He lost the election from Hari Nagar.

Abhay Verma: The Laxmi Nagar MLA grew up in Bihar. He spearheaded the Hindi San­rakshan evam Sam­va­rdhan Samiti for the “pro­tection and development” of Hindi on the Delhi University campus where he was a law student. He led a procession through East Delhi during the violence and rai­sed incendiary slogans. 

Ragini Tiwari: She’s also known as Janaki Modi ki mausi (aunt)”. Do the allusions to Janaki and Mithila make her some kind of a Sita incarnate? Ragini didn’t contest the election but campaigned for the BJP. Ragini’s combativeness was on display when she egged on the cops and mobs to lathicharge the women sitting outside the Jaffrabad metro station to protest the CAA. To her, the violence was a “religious war”. Ragini is a devotee of Narsinghanand Saraswat, the mahant of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple who had called for “cleansing” India of Islam.

Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma: The son of Sahib Singh Verma and West Delhi MP who conjured up scary images of Shaheen Bagh in the Assembly election and was banned from campaigning for 96 hours. Yet he was the BJP’s opening speaker in the Lok Sabha for the motion of thanks to the President’s address.

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