“Double engine” governance is what the Aam Aadmi Party pitched to constituents in Delhi, and managed to get on Wednesday with the party now at the helm in the state government as well as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The role, however, comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.
The first challenge for the party will be to get a mayor of its choice elected, a task that BJP does not intend to make easy. Senior BJP leaders said Wednesday that the mayor will be of their choice. BJP has 104 councillors and since the anti-defection law does not apply in municipal elections, it may be able to swing votes in its favour on the day that the mayor is elected.
A mayor has the deciding vote in cases of a tie, can suspend councillors, adjourn meetings and disallow questions if they are deemed in contravention of rules.
AAP, wherever it has come into power, has not been faced with a strong opposition to date, be it in Delhi or Punjab. In Delhi assembly polls the party has come to power with 67 and 62 seats out of 70 in 2015 and 2020. In Punjab, it got 92 out of 117 seats. It will now have to work with BJP as a strong opposition, with the backing its councillors will get from the BJP-led Centre.
Having attacked the BJP-led MCD over issues like garbage, corruption and poor maintenance of public infrastructure, AAP now has to walk the talk and tackle these issues head on quickly.
AAP leaders, however, said that they do not look at these as challenges but as opportunities.
“Now government has had this opportunity for a long time where it is in power in the state government as well as MCD. Congress did for a couple of years, but it was never interested in governance. The Delhi government had an impact on macro issues such as education, health and infrastructure but the MCD is in your home. It manages streetlights, the roads outside your home, stray animals as well as mounds of garbage. Good governance in MCD can literally change your life. Our track record shows that we work and that is why people vote for us. In the next 10 years, we can be a complete model of governance,” said Durgesh Pathak, AAP’s MCD election in-charge.
AAP hopes to use the newfound position of power to implement or fast-track key Delhi government projects.
According to a senior AAP legislator, who was closely involved with the election process, flagship projects such as mohalla clinics as well as new educational institutions will now be easier to construct. “We have 500 mohalla clinics right now, and not even one is on MCD land. They would just not give permission to construct. Now we can finally build these in far more approachable and accessible locations for people,” said the legislator. “Similarly, several schools are temporary structures at present but with this win, we can change that.”
He also pointed out how basic work, like digging a pipeline, would be stuck endlessly because of “MCD’s hurdles”. “Now a two month project won’t take six months,” he said.
Another party leader highlighted how parking lots, most of which come under the MCD, can now be used to host charging stations for electric vehicles. A switch to EVs is one of AAP’s most ambitious projects, and ready accessibility to e-charging stations will help bolster its rollout.
Among challenges, a party leader said weeding out “deep-rooted, institutionalised corruption”, particularly in some public facing departments, will take priority. But, as another legislator put it, “We have a Delhi the way we imagine it, now it’s time to implement it. And by now, we have plenty of experience running the government.”
An ambitious project that AAP aims to implement in MCD in the coming months is the doorstep delivery of services. While it has successfully implemented it in Delhi government, where services such as caste certificates and driver’s licenses can be applied for with the help of personnel who come to your house, MCD has a far bigger array of public facing services.
“MCD will be with you from cradle to grave. Birth certificates, death certificates, trade licenses, property tax — all of these come under the civic body. To bring the doorstep delivery of services to this platform is going to be a big challenge as well as the opportunity to make a tangible difference on the ground,” said a senior party leader.