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Low turnout as Delhi votes in MCD polls; BJP, AAP express confidence

The BJP and the AAP expressed confidence that they would get the majority of seats, while the Congress said the low turnout meant that the people were disappointed in both those parties.

Porta cabins being used as polling booths during voting for the MCD elections, at Govindpuri in New Delhi on Sunday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was held on Sunday, with around 50.47 per cent of those eligible turning out to vote until 5.30 pm.

The BJP and the AAP expressed confidence that they would get the majority of seats, while the Congress said the low turnout meant that the people were disappointed in both those parties.

The AAP had failed to get a majority in any of the three corporations (North, East and South) in 2017, just two years after it won 67 out of 70 Assembly seats. A win in the MCD election would give it greater control of the city. Since Delhi is a Union Territory with special powers, the AAP government does not have control of the civic bodies, land, law and order, and police.

Issues such as waste management, upkeep of small roads, primary education in corporation schools, maintenance of markets, and collection of property tax come under the MCD’s ambit.

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Since it first came to power in Delhi, the AAP government has been at loggerheads with the BJP-led corporation, particularly regarding funding issues. The AAP’s election pitch this time was that having the same party in power at the state government and civic bodies would ensure greater development.

For the BJP, which has ruled the corporation since 2007, a loss would spell further trouble for its Delhi unit, which has failed to win a single Assembly election since 1998.

Citizens stand in queues to cast their votes for the MCD elections, at Shri Ram Colony in New Delhi, December 4, 2022. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

The Congress, meanwhile, is fighting for relevance. After being wiped out by the AAP in the 2015 Assembly elections, the Congress managed to get a vote share of 21 per cent in the 2017 MCD polls, behind the BJP’s 36 per cent and the AAP’s 28 per cent.

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Delhi has historically seen low turnouts at municipal polls. In 2007, only around 45 per cent of those eligible turned up to vote. In 2012 and 2017, this increased to around 54 per cent. The turnout for the 2020 Assembly polls was 62.59 per cent.

AAP national spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said that the party is on track to win more than 220 seats, a claim that the party had made before voting day as well.

BJP spokesperson Praveen S Kapoor said his party would be able to cross the halfway mark. “Four months ago, the party would have lost, but through our sustained campaign and exposing corruption by (Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal and AAP leaders in the recent past, we have been able to break the kattar imandar image of Kejriwal on the ground, and people are acknowledging it,” he said.

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Senior Delhi Congress leader Abhishek Dutt said the low voter turnout meant that people were disappointed in both the BJP and the AAP. “These are local elections… The artificial wave of AAP has been exposed by its own party workers. People are also observing that there is no vote for change. The CM is more focused in Gujarat than Delhi. Kejriwal is just using Delhi as a resource centre to span across the states,” he said.

The high-octane campaign this time saw several senior BJP leaders, including Union ministers and chief ministers from other states holding hundreds of meetings in several municipal wards, and AAP leaders splitting time between its Delhi stronghold and Gujarat — the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections will be held on Monday.

The BJP’s campaign focused largely on corruption allegations against the AAP. It highlighted leaked videos of jailed AAP minister Satyendar Jain from inside Tihar jail, including one in which he appears to be getting a massage from an inmate accused of rape.

The AAP has centred its campaign around what they deem the BJP’s inability to clean the city, the growing landfills and a pitch for the same party to be in charge of the civic body as well as the state government.

Smaller parties such as BSP, JD(U) and AIMIM are also expected to play a role in the final seat tally.

Votes will be counted on December 7.

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Sunday’s election was initially expected to be held in April-May, and was delayed after the Centre reunified the civic body, which had been trifurcated in 2012, by passing a law in Parliament earlier this year.

This means that the municipal corporation for which elections have been held over the past decade is significantly different from the one for which voting was held on Sunday. With the reunification Act being passed in Parliament this year, the role of the Delhi government in the affairs of the corporation has been minimised, much to the chagrin of the AAP. A fresh delimitation exercise was also held and the total number of wards were reduced from 272 to 250.

First published on: 05-12-2022 at 04:21 IST
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