New Delhi: Faced with the challenge of regaining lost ground, Congress on Tuesday appointed former Union Minister Ajay Maken as chairman of the party's 101-member campaign committee for Delhi Assembly polls, marking dawn of a new leadership in the capital after the legacy of three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
The AICC General Secretary will be the face of Congress's campaign which will revolve around its success during the 15-year rule between 1998-2013 as it will appeal to the people to go for "tried and tested" leaders in the 7 February polls to the 70-member House.
"We have constituted a Campaign Committee for Delhi Assembly polls. The 101-member committee will be headed by Ajay Maken," AICC in-charge of Delhi PC Chacko told a joint press conference with Maken.
He said the Central Election Committee of the party has cleared a final list of 45 candidates and it will be announced on Wednesday. Among them are Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of President Pranab Mukherjee, and Mahabal Mishra, a former Congress MP.
Sources said 50-year-old Maken, who was elected to Delhi Assembly for three consecutive terms since 1993 and lost the Lok Sabha polls last year, will contest from Sadar Bazar constituency.
Asked whether Maken was the Chief Ministerial candidate of Congress, Chacko only referred to the party's practice of electing the leader of the legislature party by the MLAs after polls.
Queried about Dikshit's role, Chacko said she has conveyed to the party leadership that she does not want to contest polls and that she will campaign for the party. "She will be one of our campaigners."
Maken said he was ready to take the challenge and will go to the voters based on his performance as Delhi's Transport Minister as well as Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister in the UPA government.
Maken, who was made Transport and Power Minister in 2001 in the Dikshit cabinet, is credited with the privatisation of the electricity distribution as well as strengthening transport infrastructure in Delhi.
In 2004, he was appointed the Speaker of Legislative Assembly of Delhi, at the age of 39. He successfully contested the 2004 Lok Sabha polls defeating BJP's Jagmohan in the New Delhi constituency. He retained the seat in 2009 Lok Sabha polls also but lost to BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi last year.
Asked about Dikshit, with whom he does not share a cordial relationship, Maken described her as a respected and senior leader and said, "Every person has an era of glory which also comes to an end."
"I have a performance of 21 years without facing any charge. We will work hard. We are trusted and tested. We have experienced leaders like AK Walia, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Yoganand Shastri and Kiran Walia. AAP may be trusted but not tested," he said.
When asked to comment on Dikshit's suggestion that he should contest against Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi constituency, Maken said he will follow the party's decision.
On Dikshit's comment that Congress will support AAP in case of a hung verdict, he said, "It is not fair to pass a judgement based on the personal opinion of a person."
Taking a dig at BJP for projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its face, Maken asked whether he will be the Chief Minister if the party wins the polls.
"Will Narendra Modi become the CM of Delhi? In his speech he said that vote for people who have experience in the administration...But that experience pertains to Gujarat not Delhi...People like us have been in the Delhi administration for nearly 15 years...We are trusted and tested," he said.
Maken said the biggest challenge for him would be to convince people that parties like AAP and BJP have hoodwinked the people through "tall promises".
"And those promises are falling flat. They have failed to rise up to the expectations of the people."
He said it was the strategy of BJP and AAP not to mention Congress as a major force so that it was kept out of the picture. "But that doesn't matter for us. Congress has a galaxy of leaders in Delhi. We have tested and tried leaders. I have been a leader and administrator in the capital for the last 15 years."
Sources said Sharmistha Mukherjee will contest from Greater Kailash seat while Mahabal Mishra will be fielded from Dwarka. Former Speaker Yoganand Shastri is likely to contest from Mehrauli.
Asked who will contest from New Delhi, Chacko said the party will field a "good candidate".
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2015 20:26 PM