New Delhi: Nearly three weeks before Delhi assembly election, Krishna Tirath, former minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and senior Congress leader from Delhi, met Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday and joined the party.

Tirath is the third leader to sign up with the BJP in the last one week. On 15 January, former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Kiran Bedi joined the party. She is expected to be one of the lead campaigners in the upcoming polls. Bedi, who had worked closely with Arvind Kejriwal during the anti-corruption agitation led by social activist Anna Hazare, had parted ways with him after Kejriwal decided to float the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Shazia Ilmi, another former associate of Kejriwal, who had twice contested elections on an AAP ticket, also joined the BJP last week. Ilmi had represented AAP in the Delhi assembly election in December 2013 when she had contested from RK Puram and later from Ghaziabad in the Lok Sabha polls in May 2014.

Tirath joins the list of Delhi leaders of Congress and the AAP who have recently joined the BJP in the last couple of months.

Tirath, who was seen as close to party president Sonia Gandhi, was unhappy after her party denied her a ticket from Patel Nagar seat in the assembly polls.

“There is a pattern. People are joining because they have the confidence in the party’s leadership and also because they know BJP will win elections. We have seen a similar trend in Haryana, Jharkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir, where many people with ground level support or clean public image have joined BJP," said BJP’s national spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao.

Tirath, a prominent Dalit face of the Congress party, was a member of legislative assembly (MLA) from 1984 to 2004 and has served as deputy speaker in the Delhi assembly. She was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) from North West Delhi constituency in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections. She held charge of women and child development in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.

The rush towards the BJP started with former Delhi assembly Speaker and AAP member M.S. Dhir, who was the first leader to join the saffron party.

Dhir was elected MLA from Jungpura constituency in the December 2013 assembly elections.

“BJP had used the same strategy in the Lok Sabha elections. Chaudhary Birender Singh and Rao Inderjit Singh joined BJP just before the Lok Sabha elections and it helped BJP not just in Lok Sabha polls but also in Haryana assembly elections. This strategy of inducting leaders from other parties has helped BJP grow from 182 seats to 282 seats in Lok Sabha elections," BJP’s Rao said.

Another AAP MLA, Vinod Kumar Binny, who had won from Laxmi Nagar constituency, has also joined the BJP. Binny was expelled from the AAP after he had criticised the 49-day government of Kejriwal.

Political experts feel the BJP has been working on a plan to induct leaders from other political parties who can win elections. “This is a strategy of the party to induct Congress and AAP leaders because it increases the chances of winning elections. This strategy has helped the BJP in other states and in Lok Sabha elections. However, the BJP’s strategy also shows that the party is nervous and it is responding to the strategy of AAP," said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

“Out of 38 new people who were given tickets by the AAP this time, 17 are those who have been associated with other political parties in the past. So, AAP is also giving tickets to people who can win elections. It is a war of winnability between the AAP and the BJP and the Congress party is slipping into irrelevance."

In a press meeting on Monday, the Congress party refused to reply to a question on Tirath’s meeting with Shah. “We are not aware of such a development, we will respond to its once more details come in," said Ajay Maken, general secretary in-charge of communications in the Congress party and chief of its campaign committee for Delhi.

Maken did respond on the BJP inducting leaders like Bedi in the party, and said: “There is a serious leadership crisis for the BJP in Delhi. If the BJP does not have faith in its own leaders and legislators, how do they expect the people of Delhi to trust them?"

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