By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: With the Aam Admi Party (AAP) capturing the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections for the first time, the first challenge before it is the selection of the new mayor. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which finds itself in the Opposition party’s role for the first time in 15 years, announced today that it would not field any mayoral candidate, doubts still persist in certain quarters over the new mayor will be from the AAP against the backdrop of both the parties engaging in a blame game alleging each other over the poaching of councillors.
Though the AAP has the majority with 134 seats in the 250-member house, the BJP is not far behind with 104 seats. Under the amended Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, Delhi gets a new mayor every year.
AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to the media today claiming that though the BJP was trying to play hide and seek game with regards to the election of the mayor, the AAP was absolutely confident of having its mayor.
The mayor in the first year of a new tenure is a woman. In the third year, the mayor must be from the reserved category. All the 250 elected councillors are eligible to vote in the mayoral election along with the Members of Parliament from Delhi and nominated members of the Legislative Assembly. The anti-defection law does not apply to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi which means cross-voting by parties is always a possibility.
The last time when the municipal corporation and the Delhi government had one party in power, was between 2002 and 2007 when Shiela Dixit was the Chief Minister and Ram Babu Sharma, the supremo of the MCD. In fact, for nearly three years till the Congress Party lost power in 2007 in the civic body, it was a triple engine government here with the Centre after 2004 also being controlled by the Congress-led coalition.
A bitter fight between Ram Babu Sharma, who wielded enormous power and Sheila Dixit led to acute factionalism and the Congress lost power in 2007 to the BJP. In fact, the reason for the trifurcation of the municipal body subsequently was because Dixit was scared of a parallel power centre. The municipal body has greater interaction with the common people since it looks after their needs from the cradle to the crematorium.
The government has a role but is not as amplified as that of the municipal corporation. Therefore, Kejriwal will have to ensure that no conflicts happen between the two equally important elected bodies. In this context, it has to be pointed out that the AAP has no experience with the MCD and would have to choose its leaders very carefully in order to administer it properly. The BJP may have lost power but it still has a large presence in the MCD and would be testing the AAP all the time.
The election of the mayor would be vital and this is where the AAP shall face its first test. The reason for the AAP to win comfortably is because the Congress Party collapsed completely. In fact, the Congress Party took these polls very casually and the selection of candidates and the manner in which the campaign was run, was very dismal. The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief Anil Chaudhry who sources say is likely to be replaced in the near future, displayed a total lack of fighting spirit. On the polling day, his statement that his name was not in the voters’ list showed how ill-prepared he and the Congress Party were.
It is evident that no one checked the voters’ list in advance and had it been so, such faux pas would not have occurred. The BJP was hoping that the Congress Party would do better as that was the only way of stopping the AAP. The reason for the BJP debacle is also clear, they do not have good leadership in the city and the party needs to introspect on this. There is speculation that the current BJP state unit may be dissolved and a new president may be installed.
This election has also shown that the BJP’s best performance was in cricketer turned MP, Gautam Gambhir’s parliamentary constituency and he could get a greater role in the organisation.