National

AAP, Congress, BJP in all-out war for Delhi corporation elections

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 15, 2018

E-rickshaws with BJP posters and LEDs for the upcoming MCD elections, seen at the party’s Delhi office on Tuesday   -  RV Moorthy

A keen, three-cornered contest is under way in Delhi for the 272 wards in three Delhi Municipal Corporations (MCD) for which polling will be held on April 23.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is fighting to save his prestige in the Capital against an aggressive campaign by the BJP and a surprisingly spirited revival strategy by the Congress’s Delhi chief Ajay Maken.

The three civic bodies — South, North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations — are presently held by the BJP, which has maintained a 32-37 per cent vote share in the State and municipal elections in the last five years.

The AAP has managed to decimate the Congress by weaning away as much as 20 per cent of its vote share and cornering the 10 per cent vote that the BSP used to get, largely from among the poorer sections residing in the slum clusters and resettlement colonies in the Capital.

In the Assembly elections in 2015, the AAP secured 54.34 per cent votes and 67 of the total 70 seats in Delhi. The BJP got 32.19 per cent votes but managed to get only three seats. The Congress’s vote share plummeted to 9.65 per cent and it failed to win a single seat in the Capital, where it had been in power for three successive terms under Shiela Dikshit’s stewardship.

Endless troubles

But since that stupendous victory, the AAP government has been at loggerheads with the Centre, with Kejriwal fighting on multiple fronts including a territorial war with Delhi Lieutenant Governor, criminal cases against several MLAs which he alleges are “politically motivated”, and several court cases against many central leaders including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who has sued the Delhi CM for defamation. Twenty-one AAP MLAs have been disqualified for occupying ‘offices of profit’.

In this backdrop, winning the three corporations in Delhi has become a prestige issue, both for Kejriwal and the BJP.

The latter, fresh from its extraordinary victory in the recent Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, has mounted a coordinated and high-profile campaign. The party has pressed into action all top Union Ministers including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Jaitley, as well as its chief ministers, including the newly-elected Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, into campaigning for the MCD elections.

BJP president Amit Shah had deputed Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahastrabudhe along with three Central ministers — Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh and Sanjiv Balyan — to monitor and strategise for the elections.

The party, which has ruled the Delhi corporations for a decade, has denied ticket to all its sitting councillors to battle anti-incumbency.

AAP, in the meantime, is banking on its “fulfilled promises”, ie reduced electricity and water tariffs, as well as focus on social sector, especially health and education, where it has the celebrated Mohalla clinics and improved government schools.

Kejriwal has also waived off property tax and, in an election rally on Monday, promised to regularise all contractual staff in Delhi corporations.

“Municipal sanitation workers go on strike every three months to protest against non-payment of their salaries. They dump garbage on roads. If we come to power in the corporations, we would ensure that they get salaries on the seventh of every month,” Kejriwal said.

AAP hopes to retain its support among the poorer voters largely owing to these welfare measures even if its middle class base has shifted towards the BJP.

The Congress led by Maken is showcasing its past performance. Even its detractors admit that the Congress period witnessed Delhi’s transformation in terms of reduced pollution, better infrastructure, metro construction and much-improved power supply. The spirited Maken has pulled out all stops, roping in top leaders like P Chidambaram, Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh to woo the city voters.

The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, along with these high-profile leaders, has launched three blueprints on the steps they plan to take to streamline sanitation, revenue system, primary education and hospitals run by the corporations.

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Published on April 11, 2017
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