With garbage as a central issue, the AAP is targeting greater control in the national capital as voting for Municipal Corporation of Delhi is held today. The BJP is confident of extending its reign, while the Congress hopes to win back some ground.
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Nearly 1.5 crore people are eligible to vote in the 250 wards, elections to which come as the three MCDs — formed area-wise in 2011 — were reunified and the wards redrawn after the last term of the BJP ended early this year. Voting starts at 8 am and polling station gates will be shut at 5.30 pm, after which only those already inside can vote. Metro rail services have a 4am start, two hours earlier than usual, on voting day. December 7 is result day.
Over 1,300 candidates are in the contest. The AAP and BJP, both currently controlling parts of Delhi’s administration through state and central governments, are fighting on all seats. The Congress, struggling to recover its ground in Delhi ever since AAP’s emergence, is fighting on 247 seats as nominations of three of its candidates were rejected over technicalities.
Though the BJP has not formed the Delhi state government in the past 24 years, its control over MCD has been strong through Congress and AAP’s state governments. Even after the AAP won a record 67 of 70 seats in the 2015 assembly polls, the BJP, two years later, retained the civic body by winning 181 of its 272 seats. AAP was second with 48 and Congress third with 30.
This time, the BJP got PM Narendra Modi to hand over keys of some slum rehab flats — one of its campaign highlights — and deployed union ministers led by Amit Shah, besides party chief JP Nadda and several chief ministers, in a campaign that showed how prestigious the city battle is. Local leaders were a distant second fiddle.
The AAP prepared since early last year. It kept its pitch directly mounted on the garbage issue: “We’ve improved things under the state, now let us take care of sanitation too.” The slogan “Kejriwal’s government, Kejriwal’s corporator” rivalled the BJP’s similar pitch of “Modi’s double engine” — both building on their top leaders’ faces.
The BJP has made promises of housing, and pressed on corruption charges on several AAP ministers, including Manish Sisodia. CCTV videos of arrested minister Satyendar Jain getting “special treatment” in Tihar Jail have come out. The Congress has also used these to take digs at AAP. But the AAP has kept decibels high in claiming to be “kattar imaandar” (staunchly honest). Mr Kejriwal says his “shaandaar” (glorious) work as chief minister won’t be defeated by “bogus charges” and “misuse of central agencies”.
The Congress is hoping to get some pockets of influence at least. It’s still rebuilding in Delhi after the death of Sheila Dikshit in 2019. Its focus on macro-politics of ideology — evident in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ that’s still in central India — means the civic body elections aren’t high on its priority list. Certainly not as high as on the AAP and BJP’s lists.
Delhi saw riots less than three years ago, and religion-based rhetoric — some of it seen as communal propaganda — continues to float, particularly on social media. Given how social media isn’t bound by geography, such rhetoric from Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat also entered the Delhi’s civic space.
Since stakes are high — and the rhetoric sharp — so is the security. Around 40,000 state police, 20,000 Home Guards, and 8,000-odd personnel from paramilitary and state armed police, have been deployed — a total of nearly 70,000. Plus, 60 drone-cameras will hover over sensitive areas. “Preventing the chances of communal flare-ups” is among the police’s focus.
The Delhi civic body is one of three poll battles being fought parallel over the last couple of months — the others being assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and PM Modi’s home state Gujarat, where too the BJP is in power. Himachal was more of a Congress-BJP fight. But it’s Gujarat where the AAP is trying to push the Congress aside and break in.
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