Parties to test political waters in Delhi municipal bypolls on Sunday

  • Mohit Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 14, 2016 23:42 IST
The Aam Aadmi Party is contesting municipal elections for the first time. The party swept the assembly elections in 2015. (AP)

The three principal parties in the Capital are once again locked in a significant political contest, 14 months after Delhi witnessed a historic fight for the chief minister’s post.

Thirteen municipal wards are going to bypolls on Sunday as the seats had fallen vacant after the councillors were elected to the Delhi Assembly in 2013 and 2015 polls.

With elections to the three corporations scheduled to be held next April, the bypolls are being seen as a semi-final to the main battle.

While nine wards have remained unrepresented since December 2013, the rest are lying vacant since February 2015. Nine of these 13 former councillors are now AAP legislators. The other four became legislators on BJP tickets in 2013, but lost in 2015.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been ruling the civic bodies since 2007, is trying to beat the anti-incumbency factor by targeting the AAP government.

The party has given a ticket to former AAP legislator Vinod Kumar Binny, who switched sides in 2015 after being removed from the Kichripur municipal seat. The constituency was represented by Binny before he was elected from the Laxmi Nagar assembly seat in 2013.

Read: Parties bank on star power to win municipal bypolls in Delhi

The party has even fielded two former legislators -- Mahinder Nagpal and Jitendra Singh Shunty from Wazirpur and Shahadra, respectively.

The AAP, contesting the municipal elections for the first time, claimed it would win all 13 seats. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s party is banking on the government’s performance over the last year. The party won 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly last year

The Congress — the principal opposition in all three civic bodies — however claimed both the BJP and AAP faced anti-incumbency. The party could not even open its account in the 2015 assembly polls and is treating the civic bypolls as an opportunity to reclaim its lost political ground.

The high court on January 29 directed the Delhi poll panel to conduct bypolls in all 13 vacant seats in three months. The decision came after a resident of one of the wards filed a PIL, claiming development was stalled and areas were suffering due to lack of basic amenities.

The AAP government contested the demand and claimed the bypolls would mean additional financial burden on the government. The government suggested that the court advance the dates of the main municipal polls to September in a bid cut down on expenses.

Once the bypoll was notified, the Congress and BJP brought in senior leaders to campaign for its candidates. The AAP had senior leaders such as deputy CM Manish Sisodia and water minister Kapil Mishra campaigning in the last leg, but party supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal stayed away from canvassing.

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