A dust storm swept through the pollbound Capital on Saturday and littered its streets, but the ruling Aam Aadmi Party's broom remained largely closeted even as rivals struck out at chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
After losing in this month's assembly bypolls and the February elections in Punjab and Goa, Sunday's municipal polls will be a test of the AAP government's performance and popularity.
Kejriwal's former party colleague Yogendra Yadav, who now leads the upstart Swaraj India that is also in the fray, wrote an open letter to the chief minister and challenged him to win at least 50 per cent seats in the civic polls or step down.
Yadav also held the AAP supremo responsible for letting the "incompetent and corrupt BJP regime" in the MCD become viable in the municipal elections.
"After you betrayed them, the people of Delhi feel incapable of distinguishing between good and bad. And many people, with a feeling of dejection, are now returning to the same old parties they had earlier rejected," wrote Yadav, who was thrown out from AAP by Kejriwal for questioning his style of functioning.
"I am compelled to say that while being drowned in your egotism, narcissism, and greed for power, you have committed these crimes."
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia acknowledged in an interview that the MCD elections will be a referendum on AAP's performance in the Capital. Kejriwal's concluding campaign for the polls also invited a police complaint from the BJP. The party accused him of violating model code of conduct by canvassing beyond the permissible time on social media and telling people that voting for the BJP would put their children's lives at risk.
BJP TO SWEEP MCD POLLS: SURVEYS
Based on two surveys on the MCD poll, the BJP has been predicted to sweep the elections with AAP emerging second and the Congress third. Another survey put AAP in third position, indicating a comeback of sorts for the Congress in the Capital.
While the BJP and Congress have tussled for the MCD seats for many years, AAP is set to make its debut. After a sweeping victory in the Delhi assembly elections two years ago, many expected Kejriwal's party to win big in the civic polls. But a by-election loss to the BJP in Rajouri Garden and a flurry of controversies have dented its hopes.
CONGRESS HOPEFUL OF COMEBACK
The Congress, which says it will secure over 200 of the 272 municipal seats, is looking to make a comeback after highlighting the political differences between the BJP-led MCD and the AAP-led state government. For BJP, the polls are about holding on to its decade-long rule despite being accused of failing to perform its civic duties. The party has picked new faces for the elections.
The MCD polls will be conducted across 13,000 booths spanning the 272 wards. Over 1.3 crore people are eligible to vote and of them more than 1.1 lakh are firsttime voters. Police have declared 3,284 booths as sensitive and 1,464 as hypersensitive.
For the first time in MCD elections, the None Of The Above (NOTA) option will be available and the elections will be held after the latest delimitation exercise that has restructured the civic wards.
Delhi has 70 Assembly seats and before the delimitation, every constituency had four wards, but, now it ranges from 3-7. The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was trifurcated in 2012 into North, South and East Municipal Corporations. While North and South bodies have 104 wards each, EDMC has 64.