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AAP vs BJP: Delhi’s local polls arouse national interest

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While BJP has made the elections a matter of prestige, AAP’s national prospects hinge on these

Sahil Makkar  |  New Delhi  April 17, 2017 Last Updated at 10:00 IST

A few days before the Punjab Assembly elections, parties in opposition, mainly the Congress, managed to plant an element of doubt in voters’ minds about the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) performance in Delhi. 


The Opposition ran a concerted campaign that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had failed to deliver on most governance issues, beside being at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Many were persuaded that the Narendra Modi government would deny funds and resources to Punjab if AAP won the state.


This took the wind out of AAP’s sails and the party lost its strong momentum before the polling.


All eyes are now trained at the elections, on April 23, to the three municipal corporations in Delhi. Currently, the rules all the three — East, South and civic bodies.


These local bodies are mainly tasked with the work of clearing garbage, primary education and primary health care. And, the elections are being keenly observed by both AAP sympathisers and other parties across the country.


Both the AAP supporters and those on the fence would take the results as a referendum on the AAP performance in Delhi. Political parties not currently part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre would see it as either a rise or fall of another opposition force. Loss for AAP is likely to further compel regional satraps to form a rainbow coalition against the NDA government before the 2019 general election.


AAP leaders agree a win in the civic elections would consolidate their position. “AAP is an alternative party. A win in these elections will further strengthen the faith of AAP supporters,” says Dilip Pandey, convenor of its Delhi unit.


There is a sense in the AAP leadership that the and the Congress are in a ‘friendly fight’ in the Delhi elections, aimed to keep their party out. A similar rumour kept circulating during the Punjab Assembly election. “The Congress should have highlighted the BJP’s failure in the civic bodies. The is fighting the elections not on the basis of their achievements in the past 10 years but on mudslinging. The is scared, as its councillors are facing anti-incumbency, and they have failed,” alleges Pandey.


The has made the elections a matter of prestige, involving the party’s national president Amit Shah and several cabinet and state chief ministers. The party has replicated the Gujarat style of election fighting by denying poll tickets to most of its incumbent councillors. The is expecting to win on Prime Minister Modi’s popularity, similar to its success in the recent elections in five states. The aim would be to contain AAP to a minimum, as happened with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.


The BJP’s aggressive stance has forced AAP on the back foot. Instead of riding on Kejriwal’s popularity, the party has formed around 4,000 teams for door-to-door campaigning, is to reach at least four million households. These teams are to explain to people that most of the promises made before the Delhi assembly election in 2015 have been fulfilled. These include reducing power bills by half, providing free water supply up to 20,000 litres a month and free education loan up to Rs 10 lakh. 


The AAP government also raised the minimum wage for unskilled workers from Rs 9,724 to Rs 13,350 a month, for semi-skilled workers from Rs 10,764 to Rs 14,968 and for skilled workers from Rs 11,830 to Rs 16,182. The pension for senior citizens, persons with disability and widows was increased by Rs 1,000 a month. 


The 110 Mohalla Clinics started by the city government treated 2.6 million, the party claims, and 10,000 beds were added to government hospitals. The education sector has got 24 per cent of the Budget; the highest among all states and Union Territories. Twenty four schools and 8,000 classrooms have been added; another 10,000 are expected in the next financial year. Its actions against private schools in nursery stage admissions and fee hikes have been well received.


Enough to win the civic elections? The answer is perhaps a No. AAP has begun to make new promises, including waiver of property tax, to attract the rich and middle-class, and water subsidies for tenants to woo migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This was mainly to counter the BJP’s move to influence the migraant population. 


Similarly, AAP is trying to woo civic employees, especially the garbage and sanitation workers, regularly having their pay delayed because of mismanagement in the civic bodies and also because of a tussle between the Delhi government and the three municipalities over funds. AAP has promised the 55,000-odd cleaners and sweepers of salaries on the seventh of every month, besides health facilities.


AAP leaders are busy reminding people about the record outbreak of dengue and chikungunya cases in the national capital last year. It is the responsibility of the civic bodies to fumigate and keep a check on breeding of mosquitoes. Last year, 4,431 cases of dengue and 9,749 cases of chikungunya were reported.


AAP says its organisational strength has grown from its first Delhi assembly election in 2013. It claims a cadre presence on most polling booths, estimated at a little over 13,000 in Delhi. It believes Muslims (17 per cent) and Dalits (13 per cent), which voted for it in the 2014 Delhi assembly election, would continue to do so in the civic polls. The party’s hopes are based on the 2016 municipal bypolls, where AAP won five of the 13 seats. The Congress, and independents won rest of the seats.


However, things have changed in the past year. The has increased its presence among Dalits and consolidated its vote bank of middle class and traders. The result of the bypolls at Rajouri Garden assembly seat, where the AAP candidate lost his deposit to the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal winner, has sent the alarm bells ringing. The party is now focusing more on 57 wards either won by independents or non- parties, and another 60 seats where the margin of victory was less than 1,000 votes.

AAP, AAM Aadmi Party

Click on the image to enlarge

AAP vs BJP: Delhi’s local polls arouse national interest

While BJP has made the elections a matter of prestige, AAP’s national prospects hinge on these

While BJP has made the elections a matter of prestige, AAP’s national prospects hinge on these

A few days before the Punjab Assembly elections, parties in opposition, mainly the Congress, managed to plant an element of doubt in voters’ minds about the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) performance in Delhi. 


The Opposition ran a concerted campaign that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had failed to deliver on most governance issues, beside being at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Many were persuaded that the Narendra Modi government would deny funds and resources to Punjab if AAP won the state.


This took the wind out of AAP’s sails and the party lost its strong momentum before the polling.


All eyes are now trained at the elections, on April 23, to the three municipal corporations in Delhi. Currently, the rules all the three — East, South and civic bodies.


These local bodies are mainly tasked with the work of clearing garbage, primary education and primary health care. And, the elections are being keenly observed by both AAP sympathisers and other parties across the country.


Both the AAP supporters and those on the fence would take the results as a referendum on the AAP performance in Delhi. Political parties not currently part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre would see it as either a rise or fall of another opposition force. Loss for AAP is likely to further compel regional satraps to form a rainbow coalition against the NDA government before the 2019 general election.


AAP leaders agree a win in the civic elections would consolidate their position. “AAP is an alternative party. A win in these elections will further strengthen the faith of AAP supporters,” says Dilip Pandey, convenor of its Delhi unit.


There is a sense in the AAP leadership that the and the Congress are in a ‘friendly fight’ in the Delhi elections, aimed to keep their party out. A similar rumour kept circulating during the Punjab Assembly election. “The Congress should have highlighted the BJP’s failure in the civic bodies. The is fighting the elections not on the basis of their achievements in the past 10 years but on mudslinging. The is scared, as its councillors are facing anti-incumbency, and they have failed,” alleges Pandey.


The has made the elections a matter of prestige, involving the party’s national president Amit Shah and several cabinet and state chief ministers. The party has replicated the Gujarat style of election fighting by denying poll tickets to most of its incumbent councillors. The is expecting to win on Prime Minister Modi’s popularity, similar to its success in the recent elections in five states. The aim would be to contain AAP to a minimum, as happened with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.


The BJP’s aggressive stance has forced AAP on the back foot. Instead of riding on Kejriwal’s popularity, the party has formed around 4,000 teams for door-to-door campaigning, is to reach at least four million households. These teams are to explain to people that most of the promises made before the Delhi assembly election in 2015 have been fulfilled. These include reducing power bills by half, providing free water supply up to 20,000 litres a month and free education loan up to Rs 10 lakh. 


The AAP government also raised the minimum wage for unskilled workers from Rs 9,724 to Rs 13,350 a month, for semi-skilled workers from Rs 10,764 to Rs 14,968 and for skilled workers from Rs 11,830 to Rs 16,182. The pension for senior citizens, persons with disability and widows was increased by Rs 1,000 a month. 


The 110 Mohalla Clinics started by the city government treated 2.6 million, the party claims, and 10,000 beds were added to government hospitals. The education sector has got 24 per cent of the Budget; the highest among all states and Union Territories. Twenty four schools and 8,000 classrooms have been added; another 10,000 are expected in the next financial year. Its actions against private schools in nursery stage admissions and fee hikes have been well received.


Enough to win the civic elections? The answer is perhaps a No. AAP has begun to make new promises, including waiver of property tax, to attract the rich and middle-class, and water subsidies for tenants to woo migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This was mainly to counter the BJP’s move to influence the migraant population. 


Similarly, AAP is trying to woo civic employees, especially the garbage and sanitation workers, regularly having their pay delayed because of mismanagement in the civic bodies and also because of a tussle between the Delhi government and the three municipalities over funds. AAP has promised the 55,000-odd cleaners and sweepers of salaries on the seventh of every month, besides health facilities.


AAP leaders are busy reminding people about the record outbreak of dengue and chikungunya cases in the national capital last year. It is the responsibility of the civic bodies to fumigate and keep a check on breeding of mosquitoes. Last year, 4,431 cases of dengue and 9,749 cases of chikungunya were reported.


AAP says its organisational strength has grown from its first Delhi assembly election in 2013. It claims a cadre presence on most polling booths, estimated at a little over 13,000 in Delhi. It believes Muslims (17 per cent) and Dalits (13 per cent), which voted for it in the 2014 Delhi assembly election, would continue to do so in the civic polls. The party’s hopes are based on the 2016 municipal bypolls, where AAP won five of the 13 seats. The Congress, and independents won rest of the seats.


However, things have changed in the past year. The has increased its presence among Dalits and consolidated its vote bank of middle class and traders. The result of the bypolls at Rajouri Garden assembly seat, where the AAP candidate lost his deposit to the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal winner, has sent the alarm bells ringing. The party is now focusing more on 57 wards either won by independents or non- parties, and another 60 seats where the margin of victory was less than 1,000 votes.

AAP, AAM Aadmi Party

Click on the image to enlarge


image

Sahil Makkar

Business Standard

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