New Delhi: Battle lines have been drawn in Delhi, which is set to see an unprecedented six-cornered contest as the AAP, BJP, Congress, JD(U), RJD and Swaraj India lock horns for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections scheduled for April 23.
All parties have announced their candidates well in advance and campaigning has gained full swing in all 272 constituencies. The voters will exercise their franchise to decide the fate of the candidates contesting in the national capital. Counting will be done on Wednesday, April 26.
Delhi’s civic body has been dominated by the BJP for 10 years now. In 2012, the first election after the MCD was divided into three (East Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation), the BJP won a majority in the north and east and was the largest party in the south. The Congress had trailed in second place in all three. AAP did not contest that election as it launched later that year.
While the BJP has pulled out all stops to retain control of the MCD, with a keenly devised action plan and high powered campaign, AAP is seen as fighting to retain relevance after being trounced in the Punjab and Goa assembly elections. That apart, its failure in securing even one-sixth of the total votes cast in the Rajouri Garden by-poll has placed its relevance in the present political scenario under doubt.
Although the Congress’ recent record in Delhi hasn’t been great, it is looking in better shape after securing a meteoric 300% jump in vote share in the Rajouri Garden poll and has moved on from the identity crisis it faced after scoring a ‘zero’ in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections.
Congress is pinning its hopes on the fading out of AAP, the anti-incumbency wave prevalent in Delhi and annexing some of the massive vote share chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had secured in 2015.
For the Congress, it will be another chance to prove its mettle and revive its lost fortunes in the national capital after the recent double jolts in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections.
To send out a strong message to its bitter rivals, the BJP, on the other hand must put its best foot forward, if it is interested in retaining power. Though AAP is targeting the BJP on alleged financial irregularities and is promising a clean Delhi, its own credentials are at stake with the tabling of the Shunglu Committee report.
Ruling out any scope of AAP being part of the main contest in the ‘Game of Thrones,’ Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken has said “the upcoming Delhi civic body polls will be a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP. There is no third party in the contest”.
The Congress has promised that if it wins the three municipal corporations in Delhi, it will set aside Rs 2,000 crore for the re-settlement of those who live in unauthorised colonies.
The upcoming MCD elections will be keenly watched. This is a time for citizens of the capital city to question the priorities of their corporators, as reflected in the problems they raise in their respective forums. Citizens can thus ensure greater accountability from the representatives they elect.
After all, ‘janta‘ (people) is ‘janardana‘ (God) in the dance of democracy. But how will the voters decide the fates of the candidates, and their own? The voters need to be very sure of the prospects offered by those electioneering.
People must know what Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and his Congress counterpart Maken have for the national capital in their respective kitties.
Maken who has held key positions in Indian politics and is a former Union cabinet minister has employed the likes of Shashi Tharoor, Salman Khurshid, P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh in his bid to prepare a concrete roadmap for the development of the national capital and improve the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
Though Maken has vast experience of holding administrative positions, managing the MCD is a different ball game altogether. While his earlier job profile made him take policy decisions, the MCD will require implementation of the policies on the grassroot level. Will he be able to fit into these shoes? The same applies to Tiwari, who comes from a different industry altogether.
Meanwhile, the BJP is in no mood to concede the civic body to any other political outfit and has come up with an action plan after conducting numerous brainstorming sessions amongst its top brass.
Civic amenities in Delhi are in a mess; 1700 MCD schools have no basic infrastructure. Constant bickering between the AAP state government and the BJP-ruled MCD on the issue of release of arrears to sanitation workers have seen constant strikes by them. There is garbage all around the city and the BJP’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ plank has seen scant implementation. The civic bodies have hardly used their massive budgets for the much-hyped Swachh Bharat Abhiyan– a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Despite the importance of the Modi card, it must be noted that the MCD elections need candidates and issues with a hyperlocal touch. No one wants an ‘imported’ councillor after all!
What actually seems to be missing is the actual beauty of democracy. An empowered voter. A voter with the knowledge of the prospects involved. A voter who can make informed choices.
Should there be a public debate between the key players involved? Shouldn’t the voters know the pros and cons? Why don’t Maken and Tiwari come together and inform Delhiites about the implications of voting or not voting for their respective candidates?
Aditya Vaibhav is a Delhi-based journalist. He runs a website www.trickyscribe.in.