AAP resolute to grab Delhi’s civic seats from BJP

MCD employees approach CM for help, while Kejriwal’s party has already started its efforts for a 2022 win

Delhi’s municipal corporations are being plagued by the authority’s inability to pay its employees and the AAP will try to use this for its campaign to bag the civic seats out of BJPs hands. Its spokesperson, AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj has already said the corporation must dissolve and fresh elections conducted citing the BJP-led MCDs apparent ineptitude.

But for the employees, it seems like a never-ending wait for a resolution, with every month pushing them to a protest or a strike to demand their salaries and pensions – which is due for some from three to six months, and pension due for seven months now. The confederation of MCD Employees Union which on January 13 marked their sixth day of strike, have now approached Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, for his intervention in an “immediate solution” for the employees.

When elections do take place, whether it is this year or as scheduled in 2022, will Delhi come out to vote and change the party which has been ruling the civic bodies for over 15 years now?

Delhi BJP Former President Vijay Goel led the signature campaign to demand stalled funds of corporations from Kejriwal on January 8 / Credit: Getty Images

In the 2017 municipal polls, over 26 lakh votes were polled (2,681,433 total) a much smaller number than the 2015 Assembly elections – where AAP received a thumping majority – where over 89 lakh electors voted (8,982,228 total). The number even grew higher in the Assembly elections of 2020 where over 92 lakh votes were counted (9,295,793 total votes) which again saw AAP emerging victorious.  

But perhaps now, seeing as how municipal corporations and their work has been making the news for the past few months, it gives the opposition a better hand in being able to show why it’s important to vote even in these elections.

The AAP has also been accusing the MCDs of deep-seated corruption which it hopes can be made a big point of contention when people do vote. We had spoken with AAP’s MCD in-charge Durgesh Pathak on the elections. He told us that their motive would be to spread the word about how important the polls are and how badly the BJP was failing in its role. “People still don’t know the various agendas and roles the MCDs take,” Pathak pointed out, adding that for 15 years the BJP sat in this seat of power but this time they would be out.

In this relation the AAP, one can say, has already started its municipal elections campaigning. It has announced that it will hold 2,500 mohalla sabhas (public meetings) across Delhi between January 7 and 15 to highlight the alleged rampant corruption within the BJP-ruled MCDs.

Protests are taking place outside MCD run hospitals Credit: AP KHAN/ MCD EMPLOYEES UNION

Addressing a press conference, Pathak had said they would apprise the people of Delhi about the alleged “scams done by the BJP” during its tenure of 15 years in the civic bodies. Pathak said members such as AAP MLAs, councillors, district in-charges, Lok Sabha in-charges, sangathan mantris and ward in-charges have been trained by the party to communicate with people during public gatherings.

North MCD, which is struggling the most has also been accused of corruption — a scam worth almost Rs 2,500 crore. The mayor Jay Prakash, however, tells us, the AAP’s ‘unfound charges are just a comeback for the BJP putting focus on the Delhi government owing the MCDs Rs 13,000 crore’. He also maintains that in October of last year when he visited the CM’s house, his minister Satyender Jain had assured that “we will clear all your dues in 10 days” but they backtracked later. 

We asked him if the allegations being levelled against the MCDs and the present strikes would work in favour of the AAP, and his response did not negate the consequence completely. “Everything affects an election, can’t say it doesn’t. But we have been successful in informing the people about Rs 13,000 crore that the Delhi government owes us.”

Even so, the AAP may have another trick up its sleeves. The Delhi government and aided schools were asked to give information on its students, which unlike ever seen before, included assembly and municipal ward-wise information about the student.

The deadline for these forms was December 8 last year and the Delhi government now has the time to sieve through its students’ assembly and wards, perhaps preparing on how to tap into their parents’ support. In the last couple of elections, which include the Assembly elections of 2020 and the Lok Sabha of 2019, the AAP’s strong point was its overhaul of the education system in schools and the rise in performance of pupils. And during the elections, many parents of government school-going children did in fact cite this as their reason to be looking to vote for the AAP when asked.

But is it odd or improper? Ajai Veer Yadav, the general secretary of Delhi government teachers association doesn’t think so. He has been a teacher for decades now and has many times had to fill up forms on information about students, they did not, however, ever have the two columns on assembly and municipal ward.  Yadav feels the matter is not of concern and could in fact have a positive factor.

“When people see it from a political angle then they start criticising and suspecting ‘Why are they taking the information?’. But the fact is the government already has all the data… also, it’s good to have information on how many children from a zone attend a school in one assembly. It’s beneficial for the students and us,” adds Yadav.

While their new clause and eye for detail may just be another information a government likes to keep, the AAP does not seem to be keeping the municipal elections as an unimportant goal. It has started its journey in hopes of winning the seat of the civic bodies till now out of reach.  

Protests are taking place outside a zonal office Credit: AP SHAH/ MCD EMPLOYEES UNION

The fact that the non-payment of salaries is still an issue is working to show how MCDs are not being run well. The employees union on its part, however, has tried to stay away from making political accusations or taking sides but has only maintained that the union would keep up the strike till “permanent solutions of salary and pensions and dues of employees” is not brought through. Those on strike include administrative officials, teachers, engineers, safai karamcharis, nurses, and paramedical staff. The AAP ruled Delhi government maintains that the BJP-ruled MCDs are solely to blame for the present predicament of its employees.

Employees think the solution to their repetitive problem lies in removing the trifurcation which led to municipalities becoming North MCD, South MCD and East MCD. But even before this, the BJP had power here, in the 2007 polls to the undivided MCD, BJP had bagged 36.17% of the around 42.35 lakh votes polled while Congress got 29.17% and BSP’s vote share was 9.87%. Back then the AAP had not yet been formed.

The next election in 2012 was conducted after the trifurcation and again the BJP took the lead with 138 out of total 272 seats, while the Congress ended up with a distant second, winning 78.

Campaigning by the BJP will begin in February. Calling it a public outreach programme much like the AAP, it will seek to tell people that the three municipal bodies have been adversely affected due to alleged non-payment of dues by the AAP government in Delhi.

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta will be covering two assembly constituencies in a day where he, along with senior party leaders, will be meeting people from different walks of life. Office bearers BJP, MLAs and municipal councillors have already held their public awareness campaigns accusing the Delhi government of “deliberately” crippling the municipalities.

But whether this line of excuse works in BJPs favour or the current events can change the constant, only time will tell.

 (Cover: Credit – Getty Images) 

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