Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
Widespread public resentment against Congress Councillors
By increasing the number of wards, Congress has taken BJP completely by surpriseThird Front has thrown the spanner into the works of the Congress
NEW DELHI: As in the Mumbai civic elections recently, disunity among "secular'' parties here in the Capital may help the Bharatiya Janata Party in the forthcoming elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. While it is common knowledge that there is widespread resentment against the Councillors of the ruling Congress both among the people and also within the party, more than this disenchantment it is the extraneous factors that according to political observers may ultimately tilt the scales in favour of the BJP.
To begin with, the BJP had started on a strong footing owning to a strong anti-incumbency factor.
But shrewd as the Congress leadership is, by increasing the number of wards in the MCD from 134 to a minimum of 272, it took the BJP completely by surprise. With the delimitation of seats being undertaken, it also meant that for all the contestants there were newer constituencies to contest from and thus a more "level playing field''.
But recent developments in Delhi's political firmament have once again made the situation much more favourable for the BJP. By piecing together a five-party alliance called Pragatisheel Jan Morcha, the MLA from Badarpur and one of the most prominent Gujjar leaders, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, has thrown the spanner into the works of the Congress.
While both the Congress and the BJP may at the outset scoff at the Morcha, privately they both acknowledge its tremendous damage potential, especially in the Capital's untested waters as the newly carved out wards would be. With an electorate of about 50,000 in each ward, even a marginal pull one way or the other would impact the result, especially at a time when various residents' welfare associations have also decided to contest the polls.
And while the two major parties may like it or not, the constituents of the Morcha -- Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Jan Morcha, Nationalist Congress Party and Janata Dal Secular -- all wield considerable influence in different pockets of Delhi.
According to Mr. Bidhuri, the Third Front in the 1993 Delhi Assembly elections had secured 18 per cent votes. With the stage being much smaller, the alliance is hoping to better even that performance.
This should, however, be music for the BJP as the Morcha would eat into the secular votes that traditionally go to the Congress, say political observers.
And the confrontation would be akin to that in Mumbai where the Congress-NCP alliance broke at the eleventh hour.
"We had initially been promised 65 seats there and then the local Congress leadership insisted that we return three of these. This was not acceptable to us as the attitude of the State Congress leaders was also very haughty,'' Mr Bidhuri said. What followed is something both the Congress and the NCP would now be ruing.