MCD Elections: Facts, Myths and Questions

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MCD-Election

When emotions start to take over the logic and rationalism, the core idea of democracy comes under threat. Democracy is all about exercising our right to select and elect the right people. This MCD election was made to be a contest between majority and minority by using emotional issues. A fight between them and us. Instead of voting for change, 54% population of Delhi has voted for demagogues, idealism and emotions.

DR MEHNAZ NAJMI | Caravan Daily

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s expected and predicted by different exit polls, BJP has emerged as a clear winner in MCD elections by retaining three municipal corporations third time in a row. BJP as a party seems invincible because of the way they have participated and conducted themselves as an organization during the local body election, handing over a humiliating defeat to Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.

The result tally was as follows: BJP 181; AAP 48 and Congress 30 out of 270. Since Lok Sabha election of 2014, state assembly election of 2015 and MCD election of 2017 a new phenomenon of majority voting for a single party has come into being. A new trend of aversion towards coalition politics and hung assembly is being witnessed.

After the party’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh, the MCD election, albeit a local one, has proved BJP’s mettle as a political party.  The way BJP fought it as a team despite anti-incumbency factors looming large on them is indeed praise worthy. Immediately upon victory BJP declared that it was the result of good governance and a vote for Modi.

Many factors have played a role in influencing the voters’ decisions. According to Amit Shah BJP’s win in the Delhi civic polls is a vote in favor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three years in power and a vote against the “negative politics” of the AAP. If we take Shah’s claim to be true, then why Delhi voted AAP into power through massive majority in 2015 despite the humongous victory in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

MCD has been ruled by BJP since last 10 years and the kind of work it has done in a decade was more than enough to throw it out of power this time. MCD is mockingly called Maha Corrupt Department in Delhi due to its non-performance but still Delhites gave it a chance again. Congress on its part remained silent and hardly made their presence felt during the campaign. Perhaps, they believed too much in anti-incumbency factor and therefore did not put in much effort.

According to former CM of Delhi Sheila Dikshit, Congress should have campaigned aggressively to challenge the BJP, which appeared poised to retain control of Delhi’s civic bodies despite facing 10 years of anti-incumbency. Even senior leadership of Congress was perturbed by the way elections were handled by in-charge Ajay Maken.

The third contender AAP too failed to impress the masses. After AAP’s election debacle activist Anna Hazare on said that “there was a difference between what was said and what was done.” CM Kejriwal who had earlier blamed faulty EVMs for AAP’s loss later said that based on his interaction with “volunteers and voters” it is obvious that the party has made mistakes and there is a need to go back to the “drawing board”. Senior AAP member Kumar Vishwas said that “There has been a communication gap between volunteers and the party leadership. We should first decide whom did we start our fight with. (Is it) corruption, the Congress, Narendra Modi or the EVMs.”

The city called Delhi cradles many cities in its folds. There are posh areas Vasant Kunj, class habitations like Preet Vihar, lower middle class areas like Narela, minority dominated areas like Okhla, along with Dalit bastis, rehabilitation colonies and the slums.

Inhabitants of all the localities enjoy somewhat stable lives except those of slums which host a whopping 5 million people (out of Delhi’s 15 million inhabitants). Most of these people have migrated to Delhi in search of better employment opportunities. The slum dwellings are chronically overcrowded and lack even the most basic amenities.  Although India is experiencing significant economic growth and increased prosperity, the benefit of this does not trickle down to the level of the slum dwellers and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing ever wider.

Different areas of Delhi are inhabited by people with different aspirations, requirements, ambitions and expectations from the political parties. What is intriguing is the fact that despite such diversity Delhi unitedly voted for one particular party

The total voter turnout in Delhi on Election Day was 54%, which means that 46% population did not vote at all. Why 46% people remained apolitical or rather disinterested in election? If Modi wave was there, how come it did not affect almost half the population of Delhi? Why was it a contest between just two parties (AAP and BJP) and Congress was not even considered as an option? Despite failure to impress at MCD for a decade, how come BJP was given another chance by Delhi? Who did the so-called minority and Dalit vote bank voted for? Is the concept of vote banks redundant now? Has the new phenomenon of majority vote taken place? Was it the contest between majority and minority? Was the politics of divide and rule played again in a new garb?

Most of big names from Congress joined BJP before elections while some were disgruntled by the way the party is working and remained aloof. To sum up, few points need to be analyzed which had helped BJP to come to power like the campaign run by media and social media against AAP as irresponsible and always in conflict party led by a volatile Chief Minister who ridiculed Prime Minister for his actions and policies.

According to political commentators it was Arvind Kejriwal’s desire to become the main face of opposition against PM Narendra Modi at the national level which has cost the party heavily in Delhi. The AAP went all out in Punjab and Goa and announced plans to contest Gujarat and Himachal assembly elections as well. With Kejriwal as the only visible vote-catcher for the party in all states, the voters of Delhi saw their CM everywhere, but in the national capital. BJP grabbed this opportunity and created the perception that Kejriwal’s focus is outside Delhi and the voters should teach AAP a lesson in the MCD polls.‎

Kejriwal’s negative campaigning too boomeranged on him. He tried to warn voters against BJP by equating the it with “dengue” and in adverisments went to the extent of saying that the voters will catch dengue if they voted for BJP. He also blamed EVMs after the electoral debacles in Punjab and Goa. The AAP campaign focused more on the negatives of opponents and less on projecting it’s own good work like Mohalla Clinics or electricity bills.

AAP’s focus on issues like demonetization and allegations of EVM tampering didn’t seem to resonate with the voters. The middle class which massively voted for the AAP in 2015, saw Kejriwal’s campaign against the Election Commission and EVMs as a mere excuse for a party unable to digest its defeat. There was an inability to produce a new narrative. The party — which had contested and won the 2015 Assembly elections on the issues that affect common man like bijli-paani and corruption free capital surprisingly failed to present any new narrative to catch the voters’ imagination.

Apart from removing property tax, the party did not promise anything new. Even this agenda (property tax) took a back seat due to constant cribbing against the EC and EVMs. These factors resulted in a division in AAP’s lower strata vote bank and the middle class’s massive shift to the BJP. It has been said by many AAP members that BJP is trying to break the party, as many of AAP members were seen campaigning for BJP during the elections. Swaraj India- the party made by disgruntled AAP members too caused a lot of harm to it.

According to Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has been handed a “capital punishment” by the people of Delhi in the civic polls for his “arrogant and confrontational politics”. BJP on its part ran a vigorous election campaign, which included the ideas of nationalism, patriotism, cow politics, beef ban, caste, religion, Kashmir and attacks on army men all intertwined into one to unite the majority.

Muslims, on the other hand, had always been loyal Congress voters before the emergence of AAP, but now their vote got divided between AAP and Congress. In Muslim majority areas almost all regional parties fielded their candidates in order to win. For instance, in Okhla Ward number 102-S, 22 Muslim candidates contested.

From Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United to Lalu’s RJD to Owaisi’s AIMIM to Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, almost all political parties had fielded their candidate in this small area. All big leaders visited the area in order to influence the people. They knew they had bleak chances of winning, yet  they contested the elections resulting in further division and degradation of Muslim vote bank myth. As a result, the majority was united on emotional issues rather than the logical ones or on the existing problems from which Delhi is suffering.

When emotions start to take over the logic and rationalism, the core idea of democracy comes under threat. Democracy is all about exercising our right to select and elect the right people. This MCD election was made to be a contest between majority and minority by using emotional issues. A fight between them and us. Instead of voting for change, 54% population of Delhi has voted for demagogues, idealism and emotions.

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