Its election season and in the midst of the brouhaha over the state elections (UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur) whose result is going to be announced on March 11, another bunch of upcoming polls in the National Capital have gone unnoticed.
In April, Delhi is going to witness elections for the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi). However, since the restructuring of the MCD under the previous Congress government, into North, South and East Corporations, this is in fact a bunch of three separate elections. Elections to municipal bodies often go relatively unnoticed and voters tend to think of them as less important than state or general elections. This is evidenced by the fact that MCD elections generally see lower turnout as opposed to elections to the State Assembly or for Parliament. However, these statistics do not do justice to the importance of municipal bodies, especially in cities like Delhi. The MCD is the 2nd-richest municipal corporation in India, second only to the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation). Moreover, in many respects, it is the MCD whose working affects the day to day lives of Delhiites. From maintenance of roads, to issuing permits to street vendors to the de-silting of drains, the MCD is responsible for ensuring that a large chunk of Delhi’s infrastructure functions smoothly. The MCD elections are even more important when one considers the complexity of Delhi’s governance structure, The centre, the state and the municipality, each are responsible for different parts of Delhi’s governance, and with the BJP at the centre and the AAP government at loggerheads, expect a lot of drama in the weeks to come!
The major parties in contention this time around are:
- BJP: The Bharatiya Janata Party has held control of the MCD for more than a decade now and currently controls all three corporations which used to make up the erstwhile MCD. However, contrary to most elections, the BJP has so far not been vulnerable to any anti-incumbency sentiment when it comes to the MCD elections. However, their conflict with the AAP government in Delhi’s state assembly seems to have dented their image to some extent. What remains to be seen is whether the Modi-wave which allowed the party to win all of Delhi’s parliamentary seats in 2014, would help the party this time around too.
- AAP: This time around, the Aam Admi Party is being seen as the biggest threat to the BJP’s unified control of the MCD. They would primarily be seeking to build upon their spectacular performance in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections when they managed to win an unreal 67/70 seats. Moreover, the party would be seeking to ride on the “clean” image of its CM Arvind Kejriwal and pilot schemes such as mohallah-clinics and a renewed focus on education.
- Congress: After being wiped out in the Delhi Assembly elections of 2015, the Congress would be hoping for a revival in fortunes. However, this is likely to be an uphill task for the Congress especially considering the fact that MCD elections have historically been unfavorable to them. Moreover, in Delhi the AAP is seen to have successfully claimed the mantle of the leading centre-left part from the Congress and this has seriously dented the Congress’s hopes of being seen as the main opposition to the BJP.
- Swaraj India: The Yogendra Yadav led political initiative is the latest entry into the MCD polls and their presence means that things will definitely become more interesting this election. There is deep animosity between the Yogendra Yadav camp and the AAP and memories of Yadav’s expulsion from the party around two years ago are still fresh in some minds. The presence of Swaraj India would definitely have a negative effect on the AAP’s overall vote share since both groups largely target the same voters. However, the nascent political party will have a huge task at hand if it wants to establish itself as a major force in the city especially since it has lower name recognition than most of the other established parties.
- BSP: The Bahujan Samaj Party is an unlikely contender especially considering that the party’s primary base is in Uttar Pradesh. However, the BSP has consistently won seats in the last few MCD elections and continues to receive the support of a large part of Delhi’s laborer and lower-caste voters.
The entry of new parties such as Swaraj India definitely promise to make this year’s MCD elections the most unpredictable in recent years. So far the campaigning has focussed on development issues but that may change as the election draws nearer with parties embarking on communal polarization of the sort being employed in Uttar Pradesh. The election will also be seen as a test of the Modi government’s demonetization policy which has affected a lot of workers living in Delhi’s urban shanties. What is beyond doubt is the fact that the elections are going to be chock-a-block full of drama and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we turn out to vote.