For the first time in Delhi, two of the three front-runners in the elections have begun releasing local manifestos. Experts say this new idea may well be a game changer, especially if political parties deliver what they promise.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) set a new trend when it announced 70 local manifestos for each constituency, apart from a common one for Delhi. On Wednesday, it began the process by releasing 28 manifestos.
The BJP followed suit, but the Congress still thinks that its common manifesto touches every constituency and addresses all local issues.
AAP’s strategist Yogendra Yadav said, “Most local manifestos do not focus much on solutions. They reflect problems. They are work plans for candidates. Constituency manifestos will be used to hold candidates accountable when they become a part of the government.”
The need for local manifestos was felt to ensure greater public participation. One common manifesto only deals with broad issues such as price rise, women’s safety and corruption while local issues remain neglected.
“MLAs will have an idea of what needs to be done,” said Mahender Nagpal, a councillor from Wazirpur who is contesting from Wazirpur on a BJP ticket. Each MLA can undertake development works in his constituency as per the manifesto’s requirements.
Ravi Ranjan, a fellow at developing countries research centre (DU), says, “Local manifestos are a part of AAP’s idea of swaraj through mohalla sabhas. It’s a Gandhian idea of decentralisation of power in villages to make them self-sufficient. How far this experiment will work in an urban landscape like Delhi which already has multiplicity of authorities remains to be seen. It could lead to power-brokering at local levels.”
He, however, said, “It could be a game-changer if proper planning is done at local level. For example, the requirements of Model Town will be much different from those of Mangolpuri.”
Both parties conducted several meetings in every constituency, seeking public inputs and preparing assembly-specific manifestos to ensure grassroots issues get prominence.
For instance, maintenance of government accommodation is a major issue in New Delhi constituency, while encroachment of public spaces bothers residents in Kalkaji. In west Delhi’s Najafgarh, agricultural issues dominate while Bus Rapid Transit is a major issue in south Delhi’s Greater Kailash.
“Local manifestos throw up various issues you would not think of otherwise. If you ask women what bothers them the most, their answers may surprise you as they will talk about liquor shops,” said Yadav.