New Delhi, April 22
The national capital will elect its municipal councillors tomorrow in a high-octane contest, the outcome of which will reshape political equations in the country’s capital. It will determine if the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP continues to hold sway, despite the party’s Rajouri Garden defeat. For the BJP, fighting a decade-long anti-incumbency is a challenge and an opportunity to blunt Kejriwal’s attempts to emerge as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal adversary. The Congress is hoping to gain lost ground and make its presence felt, despite intense infighting.
With six parties in fray, it’s a battle to watch out for. Even as the Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India and the Janata Dal (United) look to expand base beyond Bihar and Jharkhand, the top contenders — the BJP, Aam Aadmi Party and Congress — have given it their all, roping in top leaders to woo the voters. For the BJP, it’s a matter of prestige. Despite the Modi wave, it had senior party leaders addressing rallies. The Congress, buoyed by the Capt Amarinder Singh-led victory in Punjab, is looking for a revival in Delhi politics. Polling 33 per cent votes in the Rajouri Garden Assembly byelection, clearly its vote share is rising — from 9 per cent in the 2015 Delhi Assembly poll to 25 per cent in the 2016 byelections to 13 municipal wards. Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee says the fight is primarily between the Congress and the BJP, pointing to the AAP’s Rajouri Garden candidate losing his deposit. But AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal claims the Congress is nowhere in the picture, even as the BJP dubs AAP’s Rajouri Garden defeat as the beginning of the party’s “downfall”. The BSP is trying hard to improve its tally. It had won 15 seats in the last elections. But it is debutant Swaraj India, that promises to bring about transparency in electoral politics, and the JDU, that is banking on Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s “governance model” to capture Poorvanchal votes, that may spring a surprise. Swaraj India, whose well-thought-out strategy enabled 95 per cent of its candidates to contest on the common “whistle” symbol, had launched a “blow the whistle” campaign to fight corruption. It is to be seen if the campaign created any impact. The JDU, looking to expand its base in Delhi, could damage secular votes, eating into the votes of BJP rivals by 5 per cent, say observers. But the Congress says it is not worried. “Moved by the plight of Poorvanchalis in Delhi, we decided to contest the MCD elections. We are building a connect with the people. We are here to stay,” claims Sanjay Jha, JDU general secretary.