AAP vs BJP: Delhi’s local polls arouse national interest

While BJP has made the elections a matter of prestige, AAP’s national prospects hinge on these


#LATEST| A few days before the Punjab Assembly elections, parties in opposition, mainly the Congress, managed to plant an element of doubt in voters’ minds about the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) performance in Delhi. 

The Opposition ran a concerted campaign that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had failed to deliver on most governance issues, beside being at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Many were persuaded that the Narendra Modi government would deny funds and resources to Punjab if AAP won the state.

This took the wind out of AAP’s sails and the party lost its strong momentum before the polling.

All eyes are now trained at the elections, on April 23, to the three municipal corporations in Delhi. Currently, the BJP rules all the three — East, South and North civic bodies.

These local bodies are mainly tasked with the work of clearing garbage, primary education and primary health care. And, the elections are being keenly observed by both AAP sympathisers and other parties across the country.

Both the AAP supporters and those on the fence would take the results as a referendum on the AAP performance in Delhi. Political parties not currently part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre would see it as either a rise or fall of another opposition force. Loss for AAP is likely to further compel regional satraps to form a rainbow coalition against the NDA government before the 2019 general election.

AAP leaders agree a win in the civic elections would consolidate their position. “AAP is an alternative party. A win in these elections will further strengthen the faith of AAP supporters,” says Dilip Pandey, convenor of its Delhi unit.

There is a sense in the AAP leadership that the BJP and the Congress are in a ‘friendly fight’ in the Delhi elections, aimed to keep their party out. A similar rumour kept circulating during the Punjab Assembly election. “The Congress should have highlighted the BJP’s failure in the civic bodies. The BJP is fighting the elections not on the basis of their achievements in the past 10 years but on mudslinging. The BJP is scared, as its councillors are facing anti-incumbency, and they have failed,” alleges Pandey.

The BJP has made the elections a matter of prestige, involving the party’s national president Amit Shah and several cabinet and state chief ministers. The party has replicated the Gujarat style of election fighting by denying poll tickets to most of its incumbent councillors. The BJP is expecting to win on Prime Minister Modi’s popularity, similar to its success in the recent elections in five states. The aim would be to contain AAP to a minimum, as happened with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP’s aggressive stance has forced AAP on the back foot. Instead of riding on Kejriwal’s popularity, the party has formed around 4,000 teams for door-to-door campaigning, is to reach at least four million households. These teams are to explain to people that most of the promises made before the Delhi assembly election in 2015 have been fulfilled. These include reducing power bills by half, providing free water supply up to 20,000 litres a month and free education loan up to Rs 10 lakh. 

The AAP government also raised the minimum wage for unskilled workers from Rs 9,724 to Rs 13,350 a month, for semi-skilled workers from Rs 10,764 to Rs 14,968 and for skilled workers from Rs 11,830 to Rs 16,182. The pension for senior citizens, persons with disability and widows was increased by Rs 1,000 a month. 

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