It was an outcome which no one had imagined. In a city like Chandigarh, which is administered by Centre, and has always been ruled either by Congress or BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) winning the most number of seats in the civic polls came as a major surprise on Monday.
AAP won 14 seats, BJP came second with 12, while Congress won in eight wards and the Akali Dal in one.
AAP’s Delhi model of governance
AAP’s Delhi model of governance seems to have gained popularity and it is one of the main reasons why the party won the most number of seats in the civic polls.
There was widespread discontent about the water tariff which was increased by 200 times while the BJP was at the helm last year. One of the key promises of AAP was to provide free water up to 20,000 litres to each family in Chandigarh every month.
The anti-incumbency factor
Riding on the Modi wave, BJP had swept the municipal polls in 2016. Since the party bagged 21 out of 26 seats (the SAD alliance had won one seat) back then, Chandigarh has had mayors from the BJP.
The high waste collection charges, hiked water tariff and increased property tax rates during the last five years contributed to a strong anti-incumbency in the wards of Chandigarh. There was strong discontent among the residents, especially in colony areas, because of the high expenditure required to avail basic amenities.
Moreover, Chandigarh, a city known for its open areas, was facing an acute space crunch for parking. As the space crunch worsened, parking charges were also hiked. All of these contributed to a strong feeling of anti-incumbency among the voters.
Chandigarh’s poor performance in cleanliness
Chandigarh residents were upset not just over high bills for water, power and waste, but the city’s poor performance in cleanliness was also one of the key reasons that led to BJP’s fall.
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In 2016, Chandigarh was the second cleanest city in the country. But in 2021, the city dropped down to the 66th position, which was a source of major disappointment for the residents.
The problem of garbage disposal was not dealt with properly by the ruling party. There was no proper mechanism for waste disposal or processing, leaving garbage piled up at Dadumajra.
Chandigarh has always taken pride in being one of the cleanest cities and was an important poll issue. With that no longer being the case, the discontent became even more widespread.
AAP focussed on local issues while BJP tried to ride Modi wave
Before these polls, many BJP candidates were trying to bank upon the Modi wave while campaigning.
But AAP candidates, who were newcomers, focussed on local issues and connected with the residents on the ground. They reached out to people and promised to bring about a change in the system if voted to power.
AAP candidates connected well with the voters as they focussed on local civic issues like parking, waste management, water supply and education
BJP candidates, on the other hand, banked upon making appeals in favour of the Hindutva ideology, using slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ while campaigning. Instead of focussing on local issues, they tried to highlight the works of development that happened under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Covid-19 second wave dented BJP’s image
The second wave of Covid-19 also dented BJP’s image as voters feel that they did not get the desired help from public representatives when the demand for hospital beds and medical oxygen spiked during that time.
Many have said that sitting councillors were not approachable even as people battled for lives and residents badly needed support. However, no major relief measures were extended at the local level at that time except a proposed hike in the water tariff being put on hold.