In a normal situation, municipal or local body elections don’t excite public, or for that matter, catch the media attention. But when Delhi goes to witness its municipal elections (April 23), all national mainstream or sidestream news/blog outlets are busy reporting each and every activity of political parties and their representatives, as if they were parliamentary or assembly elections.
Primarily, there are two key reasons for generating public and media interests in the municipal polls. First, it is seen as a test for the popularity of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose party had won a landslide victory in the 2015 assembly polls. Second, it is going to be a test for ‘Modi wave’ as well.
But then in the fight of warriors, rarely do people take a serious look at new fighters. Take for instance Yogendra Yadav-led ‘Swaraj India’, the political wing of Swaraj Abhiyan that was launched on October 2, 2016. First time, the party’s political worth would be tested in the forthcoming municipal polls of Delhi. It will be fighting in the absence of a symbol, as the Delhi state election commission has refused to allot symbols to this unrecognised but registered political outfit.
It is contesting on all 272 seats and has adopted the same strategy that its main rival, Arvind Kejriwal-headed AAP has undertaken to fight the polls.
AAP Versus Swaraj India
What is alarming for the AAP is that duo Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, once a formidable part of the AAP, spare no moment in digging muck against Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal. From questioning Arvind Kejriwal’s probity on the issue of submission of donors’ list to the Income Tax department to spending crores of public money on advertisements, Yogendra Yadav has launched scathing attacks on the AAP leadership.
He has alleged irregularities in granting licenses to open wine shops in malls and department stores. His charge is that ever since the AAP formed its government, as many as 400 liquor licenses have been distributed under various categories in Delhi and that a measly Rs 16,000 has been spent on the de-addiction drive.
Apart from these specific charges against the AAP, the Swaraj India leader has hit the former for its failure to provide a corruption-free government, end the VIP culture, bring in a strong Lokpal, grant full statehood to Delhi, make Delhi safe for women, or guarantee permanent job for teachers. The Swaraj India has challenged the AAP government to win at least 50 percent of the municipal seats in the forthcoming MCD polls or resign and make way for fresh elections.
Experts feel that the Swaraj India’s continuous attack on the AAP may impact the latter hard. Their argument is that the vote bank of the AAP and the Swaraj India is almost the same. Both address the interest of lower middle class, migrants and others and, hence the Swaraj India has chances of damaging the AAP’s prospect in the forthcoming polls.
Will AAP Split?
Though in elections nothing can be said with certainty, but following the humiliating defeat of the AAP in Goa and Punjab, the rank and file of the party is not feeling encouraged or buoyed up. Add to its woes, the on-going internal strife and desertion of the party MLAs. Ahead of the municipal polls, the party’s Bawana MLA, Ved Prakash joined the BJP, and another four MLAs are learnt to be in touch with the Congress.
Fear is expressed by political watchers that the party may split if it faces drubbing in the forthcoming municipal polls. It is said that as many as 30 MLAs of the AAP may walk out of it after the municipal elections. Their inaccessibility to Kejriwal and his alleged dictatorial attitude are cited as prime reasons behind the rising resentment among the AAP camp. Already, AAP MLAs like Devinder Sehrawat, Pankaj Pushkar and former ministers, Asim Ahmed Khand and Sandeep Kumar have turned rebellious and attack the AAP leadership for its failure to maintain internal democracy.
Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has already directed the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government to recover Rs 97 crore from the AAP for its alleged splurging in advertisements, in violation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines. The AAP has been asked to reimburse the money within 30 days. The move has come months after the Central Government appointed three-member committee indicted the AAP government for misusing public money on advertisement.
The LG’s direction for the recovery of money has come when the AAP is fighting the elections for its political survival. Any further drubbing in the municipal polls would not only hamper its political growth, but would also lead towards its disintegration. Therefore, at the stake is Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity also, whom the people of Delhi supported wholeheartedly.
Traditional parties like the Congress and the BJP armed with seasoned politicians had suffered humiliating defeats in the assembly elections. People wanted Delhi to have a government which could ensure them good governance. Whether the promises made by the AAP got fulfilled or not, would come to test in the forthcoming municipal polls.