Vinit Wahi / NEW DELHI
The municipal elections in the Capital to be held on April 23 are going to be a litmus test for both the congress and AAP while the BJP is still basking in the glory of recent state assemblies’ polls results and seems to be in a position to cash on it.
The BJP, ruling all the three corporations, that is East, South and North, is obviously highlighting the big-ticket projects executed by the three corporations in the last five years, while conveniently forgetting a host of the projects which are still in a limbo.
Some of these, to name a few, include Rani Jhansi flyover, Shahdara Lake, Balakram Hospital, Tahirpur Amusement Park, Jangpura Multi-Level Car Parking Lot, Poornima Sethi Hospital and Parking at Rani Market and Shiva Market, Pitampura across the city. While some projects were stopped by legal controversies, others could not see light of the day due to the ongoing tussle between the civic bodies and the AAP-led Delhi government as well as an acute shortage of funds.
In the municipal by-elections held last year, the AAP won five out of 13 seats that went to polls. The party had swept the 2015 Delhi assembly elections — winning 67 out of 70 seats.
To a specific question if the electoral setback to the party in Punjab will affect its chances in the municipal polls, senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas said the AAP had in the past registered a ‘historic victory’ in the Delhi assembly polls in 2015 despite a rout in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
“We will go into the MCD elections with the good work done by the AAP government in the city. Be it opening mohalla clinics, reforms in education or providing drinking water, people of Delhi are seeing all this happening,” said Vishwas.
However, another senior AAP legislator, on condition of anonymity, said the loss in Punjab would dent the party’s prospects in Delhi. “The Punjab results have come too close to the municipal elections. It has hit the morale of the party cadre badly as the Punjab campaign on the ground was led by AAP MLAs and volunteers from Delhi,” a senior party leader said.
The BJP, which has been on an electoral surge in other states, is in power in the three corporations for a decade. The Congress is the principal opposition.
The BJP wants to retain power by repeating its performance in the recent local body polls in Maharashtra and Odhissa in the Capital. The Congress on the other hand looks at it as an opportunity to revive the party in the city polity after drawing a naught in the 2015 assembly elections. And for Delhi Congress president, Ajay Maken it is going to be quite a challenge to regain the lost glory of his party. And none of the three players is obviously not leaving any stone unturned .
AAP legislators will play a critical role in the civic elections with the party literally giving a free hand to them in ticket distribution. At least 50% of ticket selection in each assembly segment is on legislators’ recommendations.
The AAP has already declared candidates for 248 out of 272 municipal seats across the three corporations. The candidates have started door-to-door campaign and top leaders led by chief minister Arvind Kjeriwal are holding jansabhas (public meetings).
A small, but significant test lies even sooner. By poll to the Rajouri Garden assembly seat will be held on April 9, just ahead of the municipal elections.
The seat fell vacant after AAP legislator Jarnail Singh — a former journalist who hit the headlines for hurling a shoe at then Union home minister P Chidambaram — quit on January 14 to contest against Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi in Punjab. Singh came third; losing to Badal by over 45,000 votes. The AAP could not open its account in Goa. In Punjab, the AAP won 20 out of 117 seats and emerged as the principal opposition party.
In fact, the Congress roped in newly elected Punjab Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, to campaign for it in the constituency which is prominently a Punjabi-Sikhs dominated seat. And he set the tone right by saying what can the AAP do for the people of other states when it is not able to pay salaries of the sanitation workers of Delhi.
He said even the CAG had noted that the Kejriwal government squandered crores of rupees of the hard-earned money of people of Delhi for publicity in Punjab. And now Delhi Lt Governor has directed the AAP government to deposit Rs 97 crore in the coffers of the Delhi government, he added.
Meanwhile, the votes will be counted on April 26, three days after the polls. However, dates of filing nomination papers, withdrawal or scrutiny of papers have not been changed. April 3 is last date for filing nominations, scrutiny will take place on April 5 and last date for withdrawal of nominations is April 8 for 272 wards municipal elections.