Delhi MCD poll 2017: Despite 10 years in civic body, BJP might just improve its tally
Who stands to gain and lose in this election?
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The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections 2017 have been a high voltage battle till now. As many as 272 wards across three MCDs – the fiscally starved East MCD with 64 wards, BJP's stronghold North MCD with 104 wards, and a keenly contested South MCD with 104 wards - will go to the polls on April 23.
The previous two MCD elections had seen the BJP victorious on account of strong performance in North MCD in 2012 and a maximum vote share of 40 per cent. The 2012 poll number of 138/272 was a figure that helped them cross the majority of 137, but it was significantly lower than the 164 seats clogged in 2007.
In 2002, a strong Congress had kept the disordered BJP at bay, to an extent that the BJP lost in Chandni Chowk, the constituency of its popular leader and then MoS in the Prime Minister's Office Vijay Goyal.
The loss in other states like Bihar and Karnataka also contributed to the loss as a distant yet prominent factor. However, post 2013, the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party and its historic victory in the state in 2015, with a vote share of 54.6 per cent, made Delhi a triangular fight, with the AAP challenging arch rivals BJP and Congress to the extent of making the Congress a peripheral force.
The by-polls held in 2016 for the Delhi MCD elections saw the AAP emerge as the largest party with 5 of 13 seats. However, what went unnoticed was the drastic drop in vote share from 54.2 per cent to 29.6 per cent.
This was lower than the 34 per cent (core voter base) that the BJP has managed to keep together - even in the 2015 Delhi Assembly poll results. If the drop in vote share was an unnoticed signal to AAP to introspect, the 2017 Delhi MCD election results may well be the last chance for AAP to introspect and correct its trajectory.
Factors playing an important role in Delhi MCD elections 2017
The Delhi elections are taking place in the backdrop of 1) BJP sweeping the UP elections with two-thirds majority 2) AAP losing the Punjab and Goa Assembly elections despite opening account in both states 3) Congress winning the Punjab Assembly elections 4) Rajouri Garden by-poll, which saw the BJP winning and the Congress finishing second; the AAP candidate lost his deposit.
In these conditions, the BJP seems to gain the maximum and AAP stands in a disadvantageous position. The BJP has been able to shun anti-incumbency by not giving tickets to sitting corporators, nor to direct or indirect relatives of the corporators.
While it can be seen as an acceptance of improper conduct by them while running these corporations, it should actually be looked at as a prudent strategy to start a fresh campaign.
The opposition parties have been ineffective in communicating to the residents the several leakages existing in solid waste management under the corporations in the past decade. The BJP, on the other hand, banking on the clean image and popularity of PM Narendra Modi, has fielded new faces and communicated to the people a serious intention and resolve to provide a clean and transparent system of waste management - a new BJP in MCD is apparently fighting the old guard.
The old guard will try to subdue this and work at places to contribute to the defeat of the new candidates, however this will be less significant and have marginal impact. For instance, some of this infighting was visible in the wards having female contenders. But being a "karyakarta"-based party, a resolution was reached after the New Delhi MP and leaders overseeing elections stepped in.
The BJP state president has connected with the Purvanchal-dominated eastern Delhi. His connect has also helped provide in-roads to the BJP in Patparganj constituency of Delhi's deputy CM Manish Sisodia. South Delhi has seen the popular MP campaign for candidates, which is helping the party attract voters.
The upper middle class and middle class had always been BJP voters, however Modi-led BJP has enlarged its base and attracted the "aam admi voter". This enlarged base which voted for the BJP in UP will also see a repeat of voting on similar trends in Delhi.
I remember 2015, when every second auto had a "jhadu" printed on it and the drivers rallied together to get CM Arvind Kejriwal to sweep Delhi with historic 67 seats and 54.6 per cent vote share. But travelling for 50 days and interviewing more than 500 auto drivers across the length and breadth of Delhi, I can confidently say that 7 of 10 auto drivers have turned from being an ardent AAP supporter to a dissatisfied voter resolving to vote against Kejriwal.
Mandatory Class 10 certificate for a driving licence, hiked insurance fee for vehicle, corruption in obtaining licence, emergence of e-rickshaws (many do not have a legal permit), and Ola-Uber rental cabs (they were promised that cab rentals will be limited in number) are the main factors making them rally against AAP.
A strong BJP with a popular PM coming fresh from a victory in Uttar Pradesh will be the natural choice of auto drivers, barring some belonging to the minority community. The minority community will see Congress as the natural choice.
The work done by the AAP in improving government schools, providing affordable general healthcare through popular mohalla clinics and reducing electricity bills to half for a sizeable number of residents would be a combination of winning factors in the absence of the before mentioned factors.
However, failure to provide drinking water in many slums falling under its jurisdiction, a visibly corrupt system prevailing in the Delhi Jal Board, disregarding workers while distributing tickets, findings of the Shunglu committee reducing the credibility of AAP and confrontational politics outweigh the work done.
Stories of AAP workers campaigning against the party, as reported by mobile media channel Jan Ki Baat, and Swaraj Party under Yogendra Yadav attracting some AAP workers will cut into AAP efforts as a serious contender for power.
The high-handed functioning of some AAP MLAs keeping aside the founding principles of the party and political adventures in Punjab and Goa in a span of two years might not go down well with the electorate of Delhi, which voted the Kejriwal-led party to govern more and confront less.
Kejriwal's initial perception as a confrontationist agitator might be acceptable to the public looking from the lens of an activist, but the perception of confrontationist administrator is antithetical to governance. The drop in vote share from 54.6 per cent to 29.6 per cent in 2016 had already signalled this, however the hubris of the coterie near the CM might have purposefully averted serious introspection.
Only a miracle and logic of absurdity coupled with the work done by the AAP and listed by the author earlier can see the AAP emerge victorious on April 26.
Congress leader Ajay Maken had tweeted and appealed to party workers that the Congress will be the dark horse in the race to victory. But the hubris of the Maken camp in neglecting Sheila Dikshit, exit of strongman Arvinder Singh Lovely to BJP and resignation of Delhi Congress mahila president Barkha Shukla Singh over terming Rahul Gandhi as "mentally unfit" reflects a dark horse not having enough stamina to win the race.
Breaking down while giving an interview to ABP News, Maken implicitly accepted this reality. The dissatisfied minority that aligned with AAP will marginally move towards Congress. But this will only push it to emerge as a distant second and inch ahead of AAP slightly.
Victory of the BJP in the MCD election will see it get one more chance to improve solid waste management in the city, provide clean and transparent administration in the MCD and convert and explore more avenues of revenue generation for the fiscally starved corporations.
This opportunity can be given on the trust that people have in PM Modi at the helm of affairs; they rationalise a "Modi" at the Centre keeping check and getting work done in the Delhi MCD.
If AAP wins the MCD election in rarest of rare possibility, it will be a referendum on the work the party is claiming to have done in Delhi. Emergence of Congress as the dark horse will see Maken take credit and begin revival of the Congress in Delhi.
Let us wait for April 26 for the final verdict, but if you ask me I will put my bets on the BJP based on reporting from the ground in the past one month.