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BUCKING 10 years of incumbency, the BJP Wednesday retained control of Delhi’s three municipal corporations winning 181 out of 270 wards. And, in the process, reinforcing its winning streak elsewhere and reducing the Aam Aadmi Party’s 2015 Assembly election vote share by almost half.
The Congress’s vote share more than doubled from 10 per cent in 2015 to 21 per cent but that was of little comfort to the party — it was pushed to third place.
The BJP had won 138 wards in the last election but its corporation-wise tally this time was: South: 70, North; 64 and East: 47 as against AAP’s tally of 16, 21 and 11 respectively and the Congress’s 12, 15 and 3.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose popularity was one of the BJP’s key election planks, expressed his gratitude to the people of Delhi. “I laud the hardwork of team @BJP4Delhi which made the resounding MCD win possible,” he tweeted.
For the AAP, a distant second isn’t exactly a consolation prize in a state where it won 67 of the 70 Assembly seats in 2015.
The biggest worry for a party which won Assembly polls with support from 54.2 per cent voters in 2015 was that it got only 26.2 per cent of the votes on Wednesday — lower than the 29.4 per cent it got in the 2013 assembly polls when it formed the 49-day government.
At first, senior party leaders blamed the loss on alleged tampering of electronic voting machines as they did after the Punjab results with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia saying: “Why would the people have voted for BJP? We will analyse the results. We would have accepted and understood the verdict if the difference was of 2-4 seats but the huge difference between the number of seats of AAP and BJP can only be a result of rigging,” he said.
He claimed, in a series of tweets, that the BJP had conducted extensive research on EVMs between 2009 and 2014 after losing the general elections in 2009 and was now winning on the basis of this.
Acknowledging that people could laugh at AAP for alleging EVM tampering, he said it is a bitter truth of the Indian democracy. “We can’t stop telling the truth for the fear of being mocked,” he wrote.
As the day progressed, however, this argument found few echoes and faultlines within the party, however, were quick to emerge.
AAP’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said there was no point blaming EVMs and that the defeat in municipal polls was expected. “Those people like Pankaj Ranga, Ankush Narang and Romi Bhati who came to campaign and make us Chief Minister of Punjab and were projecting themselves as kingmakers were contesting MCD elections,” he said, All three lost today.
AAP water minister Kapil Mishra went against the line taken by Sisodia and said that the party needed to introspect.
For his part, party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “I congratulate BJP on their victory in all 3 MCDs. My govt looks forward to working with MCDs for the betterment of Delhi.”
After losing three elections in a row and with worker morale at an all-time low, AAP, which was gearing up for Assembly polls in Gujarat later this year, is now rethinking the move, sources said.
“Over the past two years, we have stretched ourselves out too thin. We contested the Punjab election on a big scale and also tested waters in Goa. None of those worked out even though we didn’t do as badly in Punjab and are now the largest party in Opposition. The focus on Delhi, however, is missing as MLAs spent their time in the two states for months before the municipal elections. We now need to focus on Delhi to reconsolidate our position. Gujarat, as of now, does not seem to be on the cards,” said a senior party leader who did not want to be named. Although the 12-member Political Affairs Committee of the party had never officially stated that AAP would contest in Gujarat, Kejriwal had announced during a rally in Surat that the party would take on the BJP.
The Congress, which won 77 seats in the 2012 municipal polls, was reduced to 30 this time. It did, however, increase its vote share from 9.3 per cent in 2015 to 21.1 per cent on Wednesday. Delhi Congress head Ajay Maken resigned from all party posts taking responsibility for the loss.
These municipal elections were among the most hotly contested in recent times. Though a little over 53 per cent of the voters came out to vote, political parties went all out to mobilise their base. The BJP set up a centrally controlled team and replaced all its old councillors with fresh faces to fight anti-incumbency.
BJP leaders said their win was dedicated to the 25 CRPF men who died in the Maoist attack in Sukma yesterday. No celebrations were held at the party office. Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in a tweet said that the win was a result of PM Narendra Modi’s policies, Amit Shah’s plans and the hard work of the Delhi BJP workers.
The existing conflict between the AAP government in the state and the BJP government in the centre is set to get sharpen with Wednesday’s win.
Delhi’s civic bodies, which include the three municipal corporations, the New Delhi Municipal Council, and the Delhi Cantonment Board are under the control of the central government. The biggest of these are the three municipal corporations.
In this year’s budget, the Delhi government allocated Rs 7,500 crore to the three bodies.
They are responsible for sanitation, public health, primary education, and maintenance of roads narrower than 60 feet. Over the past two years, sanitation and public health – with dengue and chikungunya outbreaks — have been a thorn in the side of the AAP government.
Sanitation workers landed up outside Kejriwal’s door, claiming they were not paid for months because the AAP government had not paid the municipal corporation and they had not got their salaries in turn. Heaps of garbage piled up in several parts of East Delhi last year and this year as sanitation workers went on strike demanding they be paid.