A big let down for Delhi’s voters
While elections should have been an opportunity to discuss Delhi’s grave civic and governance issues, it is unfortunate that this has been mostly absent.Updated: May 10, 2019 07:49 IST
Delhi votes on May 12. The city has only seven Lok Sabha seats. But its status as the national capital and the fact that it is home to the political, bureaucratic and media establishment means that it has a disproportionate presence and importance in the political life of the nation. It is also striking that Delhi has been a bellwether of India’s voting behaviour. In 2014, when Narendra Modi swept, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven seats in the capital; in 2009, when the Congress came to power nationally, the party had won all seven seats; in 2004, it got six of the seven seats when it replaced the BJP in a shock victory; go further back and, in 1999, the BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee swept the city and came to power to run a five-year government. The coincidence is striking.
This time around, the battle in Delhi has two key features. The first — as in several other parts of the country — is how central Mr Modi is to the scheme of things. He may have just done one rally in Delhi’s iconic Ramlila Grounds but make no mistake, political conversations and contestation in the city is substantially about whether to elect Mr Modi as PM or oust him.
The second feature of the election is its truly triangular nature. With the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) unable to strike an alliance, both parties are out in the field, positioning themselves as the main competitor to the BJP. Both realise that if the anti-BJP vote fragments — all indications suggest it is fragmenting — Mr Modi’s seven candidates will gain a decisive edge.
While elections should have been an opportunity to discuss the city’s grave civic and governance issues, it is unfortunate that this has been mostly absent. To its credit, the AAP government’s work on education and health is a talking point in the campaign, with many acknowledging the party’s contribution. But whether this will translate into enough support for the Lok Sabha polls is questionable, for many see it as state specific issues more relevant in the assembly polls. AAP is also pushing the demand for the full statehood of Delhi, but this does not seem to have resonated among voters as a key variable this time around.
Sealing concerns the city’s large trader community and there is a degree of anger, but no party really has a roadmap to address it given the legal complexities involved. Delhi has a range of other critical challenges, among them most important being the one air pollution where the central government has a key role. By not discussing viable ways to mitigate this public health hazard, all parties have let down citizens. It is time for Delhi’s voters to make themselves heard this Sunday, elect their representatives, and articulate their aspirations in the polling booth.
First Published: May 10, 2019 07:46 IST