The BJP is hoping to retain control of the civic bodies, while Congress is eyeing a comeback and AAP is keen to forget its recent assembly poll debacles.
New Delhi: Nearly 54% of all eligible voters turned out to vote in the elections to the three municipal corporations in Delhi on Sunday, in a poll that was keenly watched and contested.
Many prominent leaders turned out to vote in the summer heat, including lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who voted along with his parents, wife and daughter, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel, and Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav.
At the end of voting, state election commissioner S.K. Srivastava was quoted as saying that the “entire electoral exercise passed off peacefully”. Although AAP had demanded that these polls be conducted through ballot papers and not EVMs, which it had earlier alleged could be manipulated, the request was not accepted. However, nine glitches on EVMs were reported in different parts of the city.
Counting of votes will take place on Wednesday, April 26.
There is much at stake for political parties in the municipal poll beyond control of the 104-ward north and south corporations and the 64-ward east corporation.
For the BJP, which has been ruling the corporations for the last 10 years – first, in the unified MCD and since 2012 in the trifurcated corporations – a victory would be a referendum on its governance. Although the party did not given any tickets to sitting corporators in an effort to appear to be heralding change, it is to be seen if the city’s residents have bought the argument, or are keen for the party to pay for the misgovernance and corruption in the civic bodies. Party leaders have insisted they are putting up a united battle, but dissidence was evident during the campaign when a large number of leaders rebelled after being denied tickets.
The Congress, which had ruled the MCD only once between 2002 and 2007, is seeking a revival in fortunes in Delhi, after being whitewashed in the 2015 assembly elections. Under its new city president, Ajay Maken, the party is trying to gradually claw back among its supporters and traditional vote bank, comprising largely of resident of slums, resettlement colonies and unauthorised colonies.
But the party is also facing resistance from within its ranks. MLAs and ministers of the Sheila Dikshit government felt sidelined when tickets were announced. While some like A.K. Walia and Barkha Singh just expressed their resentment, others like Arvinder Singh Lovely walked out and joined the BJP.
The current situation should have been a fertile opportunity for the Kejriwal-led AAP in its maiden contest in Delhi’s civic body polls. But the party, after recent debacles in the Goa and Punjab assembly polls, and problems with its own MLAs and ministers, has had seen a loss of face among voters. But Kejriwal has urged them to vote only on the basis of whether they feel the BJP has performed in the corporation or not.
There are also some prominent newcomers in these polls.
Meanwhile, party workers from Swaraj India, founded by Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, have taken it upon themselves to expose the doublespeak and corruption of the AAP government in Delhi. Yadav on Saturday also urged Kejriwal to treat the municipal elections as a referendum on his government’s performance and quit in keeping with the right to recall he had so vociferously advocated during the India Against Corruption campaign should his party fail to win a majority of seats.
The election is a big one for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which is contesting on 98 seats. It wants to emerge from the shadows as a national player and is wooing voters from Poorvanchal who now constitute a significant number in Delhi.