Faced with the challenge of regaining lost ground, Congress today appointed former Union Minister Ajay Maken as chairman of the party’s 101-member campaign commitee 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 February 7 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 P C 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 tomorrow. 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.