Delhi will vote to elect its municipal councillors on April 22.
The state election commission (SEC) announced the election date for the national capital’s three municipal corporations on Tuesday, even as the Arvind Kejriwal government demanded that the civic polls be conducted through ballots instead of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
With the elections just over a month away, the model code of conduct has been invoked with immediate effect. The votes will be counted three days after the polls, on April 25.
When asked to comment on Kejriwal’s demand, state election commissioner SK Srivastava said the SEC has already launched the process of preparing EVMs for the electoral process. “If the Delhi government wants to hold the polls through ballots, it will need to amend the relevant rules,” he added.
Srivastava said the SEC had received a note, seeking its comments on the issue. “We informed the government that it will have to amend the relevant rules to bring about such a change. We also told them that there was a lack of ballot boxes, and acquiring them would be a time-consuming process. Besides that, we will also have to get ballot papers printed,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal directed chief secretary MM Kutty to place a request for paper ballots instead of EVMs before the SEC. The Congress raised a similar demand, alleging that EVMs could be tampered with in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The move drew criticism from the saffron party. BJP state president Manoj Tiwari said that if Kejriwal harboured doubts about the voting machines, he “should also demand re-election in 67 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats, from where AAP won in 2015”.
This will be the first full-fledged civic election for Kejriwal’s party, which came to power in Delhi with a thumping majority the year before last. AAP didn’t perform as well in the civic by-elections last year, winning just five of the 13 seats that went to the polls.
The BJP – which witnessed an electoral surge across several states in the recent polls – has been wielding power in Delhi’s three municipal corporations for a decade now. The Congress has remained its principal opposition.
While the saffron party hopes to retain power over the MCD with a performance akin to the civic body victories it scored in Maharashtra and Odisha, the Congress hopes to use the polls as an opportunity to revive itself after drawing a naught in the 2015 assembly elections.
Nearly 1.34 crore voters will decide the fate of political candidates in 272 seats of the three civic bodies — the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) – in the upcoming polls.
The NDMC and SDMC have 104 seats each, while the EDMC has 64. At present, the BJP holds 152 seats, Congress 91, AAP eight, BSP 10 and others nine. One seat remains vacant.
AAP has already declared candidates for 248 of the 272 municipal seats across the three municipal corporations for the civic polls. While party candidates have begun holding door-to-door campaigns, top leaders led by Kejriwal are organising jan sabhas.