New Delhi: For the 15 long years when Congress ruled the Delhi assembly under the leadership of late chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the Bharatiya Janata Party had struggled to dislodge her. Ultimately, it was the Aam Aadmi Party which replaced Congress and formed the government in Delhi following its rise in the 2013 elections.
Today, it is AAP, and not Congress, which has finally broken the 15-year-stranglehold of the BJP on the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
AAP won 134 out of the 250 seats, while BJP bagged 104. Congress won nine and others won three seats.
The message from the elections is clear. The political dynamics in Delhi still remains bi-polar, only AAP has come to replace the Congress as the principal opponent of the BJP – in all formats of polls now.
AAP has replaced the Congress as the party of choice for those who do not believe in BJP’s style of politics – often divisive and communal. This has happened even though AAP is often criticised for not steering clear enough of communal politics.
While AAP had won the Delhi assembly polls in 2015 and 2020 with thumping margins, it had also displaced Congress and come second in all the seven Lok Sabha seats in 2019, when BJP had scored another clean sweep.
While some people love to call municipal elections the ‘quarter finals’ of political battles, assembly polls the ‘semi final’ and Lok Sabha elections the ‘finale’, Delhi’s politics has – over the decades – shown that this has never been the case with this electorate. People vote differently in various elections in Delhi with the firm understanding that the governments at all the three levels provide different services.
This is why even during Sheila Dikshit’s rule as chief minister, BJP was able to wrest control of the MCD in 2007. When Dikshit was into her third term, her government along with the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government at the Union, tried to alter the outcome of the municipal polls by trifurcating the MCD.
The move boomeranged on the Congress. Though the exercise, which was completed in 2012, was done on the pretext of providing better governance at the municipal level in Delhi, it only led to greater chaos.
Various problems plague corporation
The division of the MCD into North, East and South Delhi civic bodies had increased expenditure with the creation of three Houses, three posts of Mayor, three Standing Committees and has a triplicated cost of running the show.
Moreover, this led to variance in taxes imposed by the three corporations and issues of payment of salaries to municipal teachers, health workers, sanitation workers and other staff became more pronounced. The Congress was never able to even win even one of the three corporations over the last 15 years. The BJP continued to hold sway over the civic bodies.
Even after the AAP won the 2013 and then then 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi – the second with over 54.5% votes and 67 of the 70 seats – the BJP still managed to win the 2017 polls for all the three corporations in Delhi.
This year, the polls were originally scheduled to be held in April-May but the BJP-led Union government delayed it on the ground of unifying the three civic bodies. The delay led the elections to coincide with the Gujarat assembly polls where AAP is posing a major challenge to the saffron party and the results of which will be declared tomorrow.
However, as the results of the MCD polls have shown, the unification has cost the BJP dear. It lost the polls despite trying extremely hard to portray AAP as a corruption-ridden party by repeatedly talking about its minister Satyendar Jain’s stay in Tihar Jail in connection with a corruption case.
Though it managed to win all the three municipal seats in Jain’s Shakur Basti constituency, it lost big elsewhere. A look at the poll outcome also reveals that BJP would have at least won the East Delhi MCD – as it won 42 of the 77 seats here – had it not unified the three corporations into one entity.
The corporation elections have also shown that appeal of leaders does not always work here. For instance, Sheila Dikshit was not able to help her party win in 2007 and 2012 as people were fed up with the civic body performance of the Congress under Ram Babu Sharma.
Now, the images of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have not been enough for the BJP to win the elections.
AAP has its task cut out
AAP campaigned hard and repeatedly spoke about how high the mountains of garbage at Ghazipur, Bhalaswa Jahangirpuri and Okhla were growing to show BJP in a poor light and expose its mis-governance. It succeeded in driving home the point.
But now that AAP has got hold of both the Delhi government and the MCD, it has nowhere to hide. It would have to perform in the field of sanitation and clean the city. It would also have to find a way to get rid of the mountains of garbage – which have risen because other states refuse to take Delhi’s waste and also because incineration of garbage poses its own set of risks.
Similarly, AAP would now have to also work its magic on primary education, municipal health facilities, maintenance of roads that are less than 60 feet wide and do development work in the slums.