Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Sunday that the BJP will fight the assembly election under the leadership of Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari and ensure that he becomes the chief minister, only to backtrack his statement hours later.
Addressing party workers in Delhi, Puri, who is also the co-incharge of the Delhi BJP for assembly polls, said, "We are going to fight the assembly election under the leadership of Manoj Tiwari and we will ensure that he (Tiwari) becomes the chief minister."
The BJP has not declared any chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming polls in the national capital.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party was quick to latch on Puri's statement. AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the contest is now between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Tiwari.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in a tweet took a dig at Tiwari, congratulating him for being the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP for the assembly polls.
Seeking to play down his earlier statement, Puri, the Union minister for housing and urban affairs, said he meant that the BJP would win under the leadership of Tiwari.
"The BJP is headed for victory in Delhi. The party has so far not nominated anyone for the post of chief minister. Manoj Tiwari is the president of the party and he is working very hard. My statement meant that the BJP would win the upcoming elections under his leadership with a huge mandate (sic)," Puri tweeted.
On his part, Tiwari, a prominent Purvanchali face, said the 2017 MCD polls and the 2019 parliamentary polls were won under his leadership.
"It is my responsibility to ensure that BJP wins the assembly elections next year. The top leadership of BJP decides about the chief minister in a state by taking into confidence the party workers there," he said.
Riddled with factionalism, the BJP is cautious not to declare any chief ministerial candidate.
In the run up to the 2015 polls, when the BJP had initially not announced any chief ministerial candidate, the AAP had invoked names of several BJP leaders trying to make it a battle against them and Kejriwal. The BJP later declared former IPS officer Kiran Bedi as its CM face.
Reacting to Puri's remaks, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said the BJP has made the choice very easy for the people of Delhi.
"It is a very clear choice, who do people want. Do they want Tiwari who opposed all pro-people policies of the Delhi government or they want someone like Kejriwal who is completely devoted to them," Singh told reporters.
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said now the contest was going to be "Arvind Kejriwal vs Manoj Tiwari".
"We welcome this move by BJP to declare it's CM candidate for upcoming Delhi elections. Now the match is set, it's going to be Arvind Kejriwal vs Manoj Tiwari. Remember the same Manoj Tiwari opposed odd-even, condemned free bus rides for women and wants increased electricity tariffs," he tweeted.
Assembly elections are due in Delhi early next year.