Contesting on all 272 seats, spread over three municipal bodies of the national capital, the Congress is trying to field for those who have a chance to win. The party has adopted a sharp and a different strategy in contrast to the BJP, which has decided to field entirely new faces for the elections.
The Congress has chosen to re-nominate all 83 councilors, besides giving tickets to winnable candidates. A three-member screening committee that included Anand Sharma, Randeep Surjewala and Manic Tagore was formed to select the candidates. Before this, the party had appointed 13 observers who made rounds of the city, met and consulted with the block-level presidents, district-level workers to pick names for municipal polls.
By all means, efforts have been made to field young leaders and this has been largely done in keeping with its policy to win over young voters to the party’s side.
Opportunity for Congress
Trifurcation of the MCD was done by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government in 2013, in keeping with the goal of making delivery mechanism more efficient. But that didn’t happen. The 2015 assembly changed the whole scene of the city. The AAP regime took the charge of the city whereas its municipal bodies remained under the BJP.
With this power equation, the AAP government and the BJP-dominated municipal bodies never got on even keel. Functioning of municipal bodies deteriorated so much that unpaid workers of the sanitation department often resorted to strikes. Delhi roads, especially in the East Delhi region, turned to become a spectacle of mess and anarchy.
These were littered with household garbage. Cohabited with unhygienic and stench-filled atmosphere, the city became a hub of vector diseases like Dengue and Chickunguniya.
The Congress party knows it well that the election has provided it with right opportunity to tap the middle-class Delhiites who are simmering with frustration at the prevailing situation. The AAP had come to power on the promises of providing good governance and transparency in its activities. These promises have completely failed to get realised.
Challenges Before Congress
There are several challenges before the Congress, though. First, the party is not in good health in terms of organisational infrastructure. Second, a string of defeats in the polls (Punjab being the only recent exception) since 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has left the party workers dejected and demoralised. Third and most important, the absence of a leader with mass appeal.
At the central level, the party is in the hands of dynastic leaders belonging to Gandhi family and at the state level it is led by Ajay Makan.
Despite being seen as a successor of Sheila Dikshit, the three-time Chief Minister of the national capital, Ajay Makan is not able to develop a rapport with the people. The 2015 assembly polls in Delhi were fought under his leadership. He was the chief ministerial face of his party, but when the elections were held, the party failed to win even a single seat.
Yet the most formidable challenge before the Congress party is factionalism. Within the Congress’s Delhi unit, there are several groups which work at the cross purposes of the other. This has resulted in having no united approach to a task.
All in all, the situation is favourable for the Congress party in Delhi. In the by-elections for 13 civic body seats last year, the AAP had remained victorious on five, while the Congress on four and the BJP on three. Since the polls were held only a year after the AAP’s grand victory in the assembly elections in 2015, the party was expected to present a stellar performance in the by-polls. But it managed to win only five seats, whereas the Congress which failed to open any account in the assembly elections, bagged four seats.
This indicated that the Congress party’s image among the people has not yet blurred and that it can become a rallying force in municipal polls if it, shaking off its lethargy and depressive mood, fights the elections like a war.
A defeat for the Congress in the forthcoming MCD polls would weaken the party’s chance in the 2020 Delhi assembly polls. Before such forecasting becomes real, the party needs to pull up its socks and fight the elections without ceding grounds to rivals like the BJP and the AAP.