Over 1.32 crore city voters will exercise their franchise to choose their representatives to the south, north and east Delhi municipal corporations on Sunday.
The municipal elections have traditionally received lukewarm response from voters despite the civic bodies impacting life of city residents in a major way. However, the civic body election this time is being keenly watched.
While voting across the city will be held from 8am to 5.30pm, the MCD election results will be announced on April 26. The impact of the election on the principal players — BJP, AAP and Congress — is likely to have a greater significance than who comes to power in the civic bodies.
The BJP has been in power in the municipal corporations for the past 10 years. The city has been under repeated spell of vector-borne diseases and has been recording deaths due to dengue and chikungunya every year. Lack of sanitation and prevention by the civic bodies have been cited as the principal reasons behind it.
Two of the three municipal corporations — North and East — have been facing acute financial crisis after trifurcation and the city has witnessed repeated strikes by municipal staff over delay in salary payment. While the BJP has accused the ruling AAP of not funding the municipal corporations ‘adequately’, the AAP government on the other side has accused the BJP and Congress of converting the civic bodies into a ‘den of corruption’.
The BJP is, however, contesting these elections with the promise that a new dispensation under ‘guidance’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver on the promises.
Therefore, a BJP leader said that the electoral outcome will also be reflective of whether Modi holds sway on Delhi voters, as has been reflected in other state elections.
“For the first time, the BJP has taken the bold step of not repeating its sitting councillors, some of them continue to remain very strong leaders. If the experiment succeeds, it will be a big boost for Amit Shah-model of running the party. And since the bed rock of all his poll strategies is brand Modi, victory will reaffirm how much the national mood has caught the imagination of the people in the Capital,” a senior Delhi BJP leader said.
Following his victory in 2014 general elections, the Modi juggernaut had received its first set back in 2015 assembly elections in the Capital when AAP won 67 of the 70 assembly seats.
The stake, therefore is also very high for the Arvind Kejriwal-led party. The election is being billed as a barometer of Kejriwal’s popularity and a referendum on the performance of his two-year-old government.
The AAP leadership has been claiming that its government has been doing ‘revolutionary’ work. “What we achieved in 2015 was a high that happens occasionally. Any comparison from that figure will be a bit too harsh. We have plugged corruption, especially at the top and have delivered on several fronts. We are confident when people compare that with the way MCD functions, we will emerge a clear winner,” an AAP legislator said.
For the Congress, which has ruled the city for long, could be a make or break election. Even as it is making all efforts to regain political relevance, the party seems to be disintegrating just ahead of the polls with some if its top leaders crossing over to the several camp.
“Congress is surely gaining ground as compared to assembly elections, the results will decide the fate of the party as well as some of its leaders currently calling the shots. Lot of churning is going to happen after the polls,” a Congress veteran said.
This election, a lot is also at stake for the regional parties as they want to make an impact in national capital’s politics. While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) used to be the third largest party, before AAP came to picture, it is now fighting for fourth spot.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United is making a debut and banking on the 40-lakh odd Purvanchali voters spread across the city.
There are 100 candidates in fray for JDU and the party leaders say they will be at the second spot, wherever they are contesting.
“Purvanchali voters were the strength of AAP but now they will vote fir us. That is why we are confident of good performance,” a JDU leader said.
The Mayawati-led BSP on the other hand is fighting for its lost glory. The party was a key player in the Capital during the last civic body elections and was the third major contender after the BJP and Congress. It won 15 seats in the 2012 municipal elections, with over 10% vote share.
A source said BSP’s strongholds were Muslim-dominated areas as well as places in Outer Delhi. But party supremo Mayawati chose to stay away from the polls and recent drubbing in UP election will play a huge role in party’s performance.
The newly formed Swaraj Party believes that they have kept an alternative politics before people that talks of empowering the people at grass root level, supporting women and unblemished candidates in elections.
The party also wants to keep the momentum going that was infused by Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement.
“Winning or losing is important but this is not the only factor that has brought us into politics. So we are working for a long term goal which is bringing integrity into politics,” said Swaraj India spokesperson Anupam.