MCD elections 2017: Both Kejriwal's AAP & Modi's BJP have a big stake in this pivotal election

Shubham Ghosh
delhi chief minister arvind kejriwal

The Delhi MCD Elections are important for all the parties contesting the polls. Governing the civic body is seen as a stepping stone to winning the Delhi legislative assembly elections. It remains to be seen where the voters place their trust.

Though it's just a civic election its significance is not dimmed by that fact. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections scheduled for April 23 constitutes the next round in the battle after the five Assembly polls that were held in February and May.

The BJP formed governments in four out of five states, while anti-Narendra Modi forces were left licking their wounds. A lot of water has flown down the Yamuna since then, with leaders from various parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress, joining the BJP. The April 23 elections in Delhi will be a real test for both Arvind Kejriwal and the Gandhis to prove how much of a chance they truly stand in the era of Modi.

Delhi voters have been unpredictable in last few polls

Politically, Delhi is in a state of flux. Though the Centre saw a majoritarian government after a gap of three decades in 2014, Delhi has still not decided which party serves it best. If we look at the last few elections, the results have vastly differed. In 2012, the BJP convincingly defeated the Congress in the civic polls. In 2013, following the rise of the AAP, the Assembly elections became an interesting contest.

Results in Delhi elections over the last few years
2015 Assembly elections (70 seats) AAP won 67 seats BJP won 3 seats  Congress won 0 seat  Others 0 seats
2014 Lok Sabha elections (7 seats) BJP won 7 seats AAP won 0 seat Congress won 0 seat  Others 0 seat
2013 Assembly elections (70 seats) BJP won 31 seats AAP won 28 seats Congress won 8 seats  Others 3 seats
2012 MCD elections (272 seats)  BJP won 148 seats  Congress won 71 seats  Others won 53 seats There was no AAP then 

Though the BJP emerged as the single-largest party in that election, it was the AAP that formed the government with the Congress's support.

The government did not last long, thanks to Kejriwal's theatrics against his own party and Delhi went under presidential rule. In the Lok Sabha election of 2014, the BJP swept Delhi, winning all seven seats. But the AAP came back strongly in the Assembly elections of 2015 by bagging 67 of the 70 seats while the saffron party could win just three seats.

The BJP, nevertheless, won the recent Assembly bypoll in Rajouri Garden constituency. The AAP finished third, even though it had won the same seat in the 2015 election.

These results over the last few years suggest that neither the BJP nor the AAP can take things for granted in Delhi, despite their successes in the recent past. One thing, however, is clear and that is the Congress's bleak future.

The party has failed to win a single seat in the last two major elections in Delhi and given the erosion in its ranks in the recent past and the open revolt against party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, even the most loyal Gandhi supporter will not fancy the Grand Old Party emerging with flying colours in the upcoming election.

Why the civic polls are significant for AAP and BJP

The municipal elections in Delhi are significant for both the Modi-Amit Shah duo and Kejriwal because a victory will not only ensure their grip on the heart of the country and give them massive mileage in the media ahead of the big battle in 2019; a defeat will be a big loss of face for either of the rival leaders – all the more for Kejriwal.

The BJP's humiliating loss in the 2015 elections was seen by many observers as a decisive blow to the Modi wave, but the BJP worked hard to overcome the setback in the days that followed and its success culminated in the UP election victory this year.

Kejriwal, on the other hand, failed to achieve his goal in Punjab, which he had strongly expected to be the second state the AAP would rule and now has the burden on his shoulders to prove to pundits that the 2015 victory wasn't a fluke.

If Kejriwal fails to reproduce the magic of 2013 and 2015 this time around, his ability to derail Modi as a national alternative will start fading fast. Even complaints about EVMs will not help much then.

The BJP, on the other hand, has less to lose after its huge victories in UP and Uttarakhand and display of superb fire-fighting skills to set up governments in Goa and Manipur. But yet, the Modi-Shah pair would not like the BJP's winning momentum to be disrupted.

Opportunity for Modi to become Delhi's own

Modi, despite his thumping victory in the 2014 general elections, is still seen as an outsider in Delhi. A BJP victory on April 26 — when the MCD poll results will be declared — can create a golden opportunity to change that perception. Given the Delhi civic polls' big reach in terms of people and community service and the PM's knack of capitalising on social schemes to win people's hearts, the BJP's civic rule can be Modi-fied, enhancing the popular prime minister's appeal in the avenues of power in the National Capital.

Nature of Delhi elections has changed

In the 2012 MCD elections, the result was largely multi-faced (the BJP won 138 seats, Congress 78 and others 56) but the elections in 2013 and 2015 became more bi-polar between the BJP and AAP, which has primarily made its mark by eating into the Congress's votes.

AAP has also seen divisions in the recent past and a new outfit Swaraj India comprising expelled AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan is also contesting the MCD polls. If that party makes a dent into the AAP's vote-share, the BJP will be the direct beneficiary.

The AAP will sincerely hope that the anti-incumbency factor hits the BJP, which has been in power for 10 years now. But the funny thing with Delhi is that there are so many authorities located in the same city (Centre, state government, civic administration) that it is very difficult to differentiate between the various anti-incumbency moods that prevail there.

What if the Modi factor comes to the rescue of the 10-year-old BJP civic administration and the fickle-minded Kejriwal finds a more burdensome anti-incumbency mood at work in this election?

Elections in India are very difficult to predict.

Key issues of MCD polls 2017

Elections will be held for the North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations on April 23. Here are some of the key issues in these elections:

  • Pollution and cleanliness: Air pollution has remained the bane of Delhi and the AAP government's odd-even scheme hasn't helped much. The issue is so crucial that even the new entrant in the race – Swaraj India – has promised a clean, green and pollution-free Delhi, as well as making the city disease-free.
  • Waste management: Lack of an efficient waste-management system has been another problem for Delhi's civic authorities. With its massive population, the city produces a huge amount of trash every day and open landfills have posed a threat to the health of locals. The Congress has promised to execute "Mission Zero Landfill Delhi" if it is elected to power.
  • Taxes and services: This is another key poll issue and the BJP has promised a number of services apart from providing "transparent rule". The BJP has promised the Deendayal Antyodaya Rasoi Yojana will provide subsidised meals. It also pledged not to levy any new municipal tax. The AAP also decided to launch 'Aam Aadmi Canteens' to replace the Jan Ahaar project of former chief minister, Sheila Dikshit.
  • Corruption: The AAP, which is contesting the MCD elections for the first time, has promised a corruption-free bureaucracy and also to turn Delhi into a world-class city.

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