It will be a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress for the three new municipal corporations of Delhi, elections for which are to be held on April 15. The elections have significance beyond their civic context, as they are seen as a ‘prequel’ not only to the Delhi assembly elections to be held next year, but also to the many other state assembly elections (Gujarat, Himachal, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh) scheduled over the next two years in which the two national parties will be pitted directly against each other.
The MCD elections “are not a referendum on my government”, says Sheila Dikshit, but that’s exactly what they are turning out to be. According to a LensOnNews poll, there is a strong anti-incumbency sentiment animating the electorate, but that is directed mainly against the Delhi government, with the result that the Congress is slated to do poorly in the civic elections and the BJP is likely to capture power in all the three newly created municipal corporations of North, South and East Delhi.
After the UP elections, the results of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporations gave a rude jolt to the Congress. The LensOnNews survey indicates that the MCD election results are likely to be another wake-up call.
Our survey shows BJP increasing its vote share over the 2007 level by 3 percentage points to 39 per cent and the Congress maintaining its share at 29 per cent. However, the seats tally of both parties are set to drop, with the BJP’s overall tally in the three new entities coming down from 164 to 149 and the Congress’s from 67 to 54. The large number of rebels, independents and small parties are set to more than double their seats to 59. It is our estimate, however, that the BJP will be able to take control of all the three corporations, though it may not have quite a majority on its own in the East.
Trifurcation of MCD
Chief minister Sheila Dikshit had pushed through her signature initiative of the trifurcation of the municipal corporation against fierce resistance not only from the BJP but also from her own partymen, and it is this step (which according to her will improve efficiency in the delivery of services) along with the increase in reservation of seats for women in the corporations from 30 to 50 per cent that she has been using as her main campaign planks.
These steps have not really helped the Congress as the increase in the number of reserved seats (there will now be 158 seats reserved for women and SCs, as against only 114 in the general category) and the rotation system for identifying reserved constituencies have disrupted local party structures and uprooted corporators from constituencies they have nursed over a period of time.
Further, executive power in the MCD has always resided with the commissioner and deputy commissioners, officials appointed by the state government, with the mayor and corporators having very little say beyond their personal local area funds. Delhiites know this, and they have always looked to the state government for solutions to their problems. They gave Sheila Dikshit an unprecedented third term in the 2008 assembly elections, and now they are looking askance at her government’s performance.
Price rise and corruption, the main issues
The unrelenting price rise and the large-scale corruption, misgovernance and abuse of power that came to the fore during the Commonwealth Games are the main issues agitating the voters, and they see the Congress-led governments at the state and central levels as responsible for this. The BJP’s campaign against the governmental scams, highlighting the Shunglu and the Loklayukta reports, seems to have gone home.
Though it is essentially a two-way race between the two national parties, they have both to contend with a large number of spoilers. The BJP is riven with dissension and has had to sack as many as 70 partymen, many of whom are now standing as rebels or otherwise acting against the party. The Congress is particularly worried about its hold on the Muslim vote which could potentially be decisive in more than 50 municipal wards. However, with the BSP and the SP putting up 29 Muslim candidates each against only 19 from the Congress, and other influential Muslims entering the race under the banner of the Peace party, the IUML etc. the Congress has reason to worry.
The LensOnNews survey was carried out over the period April 8 to 10 among a representative sample of 3007 voters spread across all the three municipal corporation areas. The results are subject to a margin of error of 3 per cent at the aggregate level.