The jewel in the crown and a crown of thorns — both these descriptions fit Delhi politically. After 15 years in the saddle, perhaps no one knows this better than chief minister Sheila Dikshit who is fighting for a fourth term. We will know soon enough which way the voter has decided — Delhi witnessed a record voter turnout of around 66% — but this election has been particularly interesting in that it was a triangular contest with the new kid on the block, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) shaking things up a bit. Many felt that the AAP with its broom symbol seems out of sync with the tony Capital city. But this is to forget that at least 70% of buildings in Delhi are unauthorised and a vast number of colonies illegal.
A large floating population exists in the peripheries of the city and has the numbers to decide which way an election goes. The AAP is expected to be the spoiler in this election but even a moderate showing by it is significant in Delhi which has largely had a two-party system. The chief minister has to tackle both the anti-incumbency factor and the fact that there is a discontent with the UPA government. This is a double whammy. Anyone who rules Delhi is hampered at the very outset by the special status the city-state enjoys. In such a sprawling megapolis, law and order comes under the home ministry. Yet, blame for incidents like the horrific December 16 gang rape are laid at the door of the Delhi administration. Ms Dikshit has long asked for the police to be brought under her administration but to no avail.
The city has spread out over the years into what is amorphously termed the National Capital Region. This makes policing all the harder. Those living in the suburbs of Gurgaon and Noida and work in Delhi cross seamlessly across state borders. In a similar manner, criminals too move around with ease making law enforcement more difficult.
What has made this election exciting is the fact that the AAP has brought in an almost single-minded focus on corruption. It has in a way forced the BJP and the Congress to sit up and take notice of the simmering anger among people who have to fight daily for basic amenities. The Delhi of the malls and Metro rail is still some way away for those in the dingy and crowded colonies on the margins. The new dispensation must take a holistic look at the NCR and come up with a new blueprint for Delhi taking into account the changed realities. The effort ought to be to turn the crown of thorns into a jewel in the crown, something that can be done with a better model of planning and innovation.