Muslim votes may shift from AAP
Abdul Bari Masoud takes stock of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections going to be held on December 4 and finds that the main contest appears to be between AAP and BJP while there is Congress too and smaller parties are also attempting to erode the support of more established adversarial parties.
As the Election Day draws near for the 250-member Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the election campaigning has become more intense. The contest appears to be between Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the civic body’s governing BJP and Congress so far, but smaller parties are also attempting to erode the support of more established adversarial parties.
Both the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad’s Azad Samaj Party (ASP) have declared they will run candidates in 100 wards where Dalits and Muslims predominate in the city. The BJP and Congress dominated politics in the national capital before the AAP rose to prominence.
In May this year, a unified MCD officially took over, ending the civic body of Delhi’s decade-long trifurcation, which sought to decentralise urban municipal authority in the national capital.
After merger of the three civic bodies namely – the North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations into one, the number of municipal wards has also decreased due to the unification, going from 272 to 250.
The civic body will hold elections for its 250 wards on December 4. Vote tallying will happen on December 7. Forty-two of the 250 wards are set aside for candidates from the SC.
In the MCD, which was divided in 2012 into corporations for the North, South, and East until being united this year, the BJP has held office for three consecutive terms. The BJP, AAP and Congress are viewed as the front-runners in the polls as a whole.
One hundred eighty-one of the 270 wards were won by the BJP in the 2017 civic body elections. Due to the candidates’ deaths, no voting could be conducted for two seats. The Congress only managed to capture 27 wards, while the AAP won 48.
For this high-stake elections, desperate and highly-ambitious AAP chief and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal is trying to be in the BJP’s shoes. Releasing the manifesto for MCD polls on November 11, Kejriwal predicted that the BJP would not win more than 20 seats in the elections in the civic body polls. He announced 10 promises made by the AAP.
Kejriwal alleged that “the BJP had promised to provide cash from the Centre, make Delhi garbage-free, and eliminate the waste mountains but accomplished nothing.”
“10 assurances will be worked toward. We’ll clear Delhi’s streets and find a solution to the Garbage Mountains. There will be park re-decorating. We’ll provide an MCD that is free of corruption and address the parking issue. MCD employees will be paid on schedule,” he said.
Manish Sisodia, deputy chief minister of Delhi and a key confidant of Kejriwal, stated that the people of Delhi are actively looking for a government in the MCD that can free them from the BJP’s bad governance, corruption, rubbish mountains, and mismanagement.
The AAP also intends to improve the quality of MCD schools and dispensaries, beautify parks under the civic body and ensure timely payment of salaries to its employees, Kejriwal said.
Sisodia told Radiance the BJP has utterly destroyed the MCD from within. They have also damaged Delhi, spreading trash everywhere and filling every park, gully, and mohalla with trash, and added that the BJP is harassing and taking advantage of traders. If the common man doesn’t pay up to the BJP’s mafias, he won’t even be able to build his home, the Delhi deputy chief minister said.
The BJP also released its manifesto for MCD polls. Adesh Gupta, president of Delhi BJP; Manoj Tiwari, and Ashish Sood, chairman of the MCD poll management committee, all released a manifesto titled “Wachan Patra” (a pledge letter) that included images of recent flat allocations to slum dwellers in Delhi’s Kalkaji neighbourhood.
It promised houses for slum dwellers under the “Jahan Jhuggi wahan Makaan Scheme”. But the manifesto is mum about other issues plagued by the city population as AAP and other rival parties have been raising for a long time. Though it promised to ensure proper disposal of garbage in the capital, garbage disposal has been one of the key issues in the national capital ahead of the civic body polls. BJP, which won all the seven parliamentary seats of the city but failed to win assembly elections twice, is struggling to retain its power in the civic body for the fourth consecutive term.
Meanwhile, BJP president JP Nadda met with Delhi unit leaders to discuss the crucial election. More than 15,000 potential candidates’ names had been gathered by teams of central and state officials from local leaders, including current and former council members, MLAs, and mandal (ward) level office holders. The leader added that there were also recommendations from the state unit and MPs.
Congress, once dominated by the party of the national capital, is struggling to put up a better show in the ensuing civic polls. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has assigned Ajoy Kumar the additional charge of Delhi till the completion of the civic body polls as the regular AICC-in-charge of the party’s capital unit Shaktisinh Gohil was busy with the Gujarat Assembly polls. It is yet to finalise the list of candidates.
Meanwhile, the entry of AIMIM in Delhi’s politics through MCD polls will be interesting to watch as the Muslim voters influence the poll outcome in 10 Assembly segments in Delhi.
Speaking with Radiance, AIMIM Delhi unit president Kaleemul Hafeez said the Delhi neighbourhoods where Muslims and Dalits reside have been “totally disregarded” by both the BJP and AAP.
AIMIM will contest 68 of the 100 wards, while ASP will fight the polls in 32 wards, leaders of the two parties announced in a press conference.
“The decision to fight the MCD polls together by the two parties was approved by their heads Asaduddin Owasi and Chandra Shekhar Aazad,” Hafeez said.
Since 2014, most of the Muslim voters shifted their loyalty from Congress to AAP but Arvind Kejriwal’s some actions such as recommending photos of Hindu deities, Laxmi and Ganesha, on banknotes have irked them as they lambasted it appeasement of “hard Hindutva constituency.”
This time AAP may not get Muslim vote en masse. Mohammad Nadeem, a resident of Jamia Nagar said Kejriwal has shown his true colours that has dented AAP’s secular credentials.
Hafeez stated that Kejriwal had transformed AAP into the BJP’s B-team in actuality because he occasionally displayed his saffron hue.
He cited Kejriwal’s advocacy for UCC in Gujarat election, Shaheen Bagh agitation, North East Delhi riots and other issues related to the second largest religious community of Delhi.
When asked whether the forays of AIMIM on a large scale into the civic polls will not pave the way for BJP win, “See the abject conditions of Muslim neighbourhoods which lack basic amenities like good schools, clinics and parks, etc.,” he quipped and added, “AAP is also a B-team as it proved at many occasions and the Congress is on the wane.”
Muslims constitute 20 per cent, and Dalits 16 per cent of the total population in Delhi.
There are 22 wards where Muslim votes constitute more than 40 per cent. The new delimitation has been done in a way that Muslim-dominated wards were cut to size, Hafeez said.
For instance, Muslim candidates were placed in a disadvantageous position since the wards for the Okhla assembly seat were not divided based on equal population.
In the last election of 2017, 14 Muslim candidates got elected – seven male and seven female. Seven got success on AAP ticket, six on Congress tickets and 1 won as BSP candidate.
AIMIM and ASP formed the ‘Hissedari Morcha’ and it is also joined by Liberal Party of India.
Speaking with Radiance, ASP’s Delhi In-charge Bhiku Ram Jain said that if Muslims and Dalits come together, no political party will afford to ignore them.
“The Morcha will contest the MCD polls with all its might and teach a befitting lesson to the BJP and AAP that have betrayed the people,” Jain said.
The AIMIM had contested the civic body polls on nine wards in 2017 and lost all.
According to party leaders, this time the party plans to run candidates in wards with sizable Muslim populations, including Okhla, Matia Mahal, Seelampur, Mustafabad, Ballimaran, Babarpur, Sadar Bazar, and other similar areas.
The ASP is likely to run candidates in the 12 reserved Assembly seats in Delhi, including Mangolpuri, Sultanpur Majra, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Madipur, Deoli, and Ambedkar Nagar.
As the election campaign is going on, an NGO Praja Foundation came up with an analysis of the manifesto promises of major political parties (BJP, AAP and INC) and compared them with deliberations, specific manifesto points, and citizens’ complaints related to those manifesto points.
From April 2017 to March 2021, the complaints related to buildings were 2,25,553; however, an average of only 4% of deliberations was raised by BJP, AAP and INC parties in Delhi.
Delhi faced 70,935 citizen complaints related to the nuisance caused by animals from April 2017 to March 2021; however, of the total deliberations, only 2% issues were raised by all party councillors.
Similarly, 33,746 sewerage complaints were registered from April 2017 to March 2021; however, from the overall proportion of deliberations raised, only 2% was related to this issue.
BJP mentioned in their manifesto world-class toilets with adequate water, electricity and personnel in Delhi; however, community toilet seats for women are 17% less than those for men under MCD.
Furthermore, 16% of all toilets, there was no water connection available while 10% of them had no electricity in 2020. However, in 2020, there was a deficit of 9,672 toilets for males and 17,826 toils for females as per the norms prescribed in the SBM guideline.
BJP, in its manifesto, promised a provision to ensure Delhi will be made debris-free by establishing a C and D waste plant, AAP and INC promised to end the usage of landfills in Delhi. However, from 2017 to 2020 a total of 5,311 citizen complaints were related to the removal of debris. Furthermore, in 2020-21, the Disposal of MSW in Landfill Sites was a total of 5,074 TPD from all 3 MCDs.