Parties begin strategising as Delhi civic polls approach

BJP, Congress train their guns on Delhi govt.’s liquor policy; AAP banks on BJP’s 15 years of anti-incumbency

January 31, 2022 01:41 am | Updated 04:22 am IST - New Delhi

With just two months left for the civic polls in the Capital, the Congress and the BJP have begun intensifying their attacks on the Delhi government’s new excise policy on liquor. Earlier this month, the BJP held a city-wide ‘Chakka Jam’ to protest against the new policy, which allegedly allowed some liquor vends to open in the vicinity of schools and places of worship. Congress’ councillors have also alleged that most of the newly opened liquor vends were in non-conforming areas, including residential and mixed land use areas.

“Apart from the new excise policy, we will also highlight the government’s failure in controlling pollution, the collapse of the public transport system, as well as the education and healthcare systems. Our focus on these issues will only intensify in the coming months,” Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said.

In October last year, the BJP’s Delhi unit had launched ‘Jhuggi Samman Yatra’, aimed at wooing slum dwellers in the city spread across 600 slum clusters. Mr. Bidhuri, however, ruled out that the party had a “special focus” on votes from the slum clusters, which have a population of close to 30 lakh.

While the BJP and the Congress’s strategies largely focus on highlighting the “shortcomings” of the Delhi government, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) strategy, according to its civic body in-charge Durgesh Pathak, banks on raising allegations of corruption against the BJP which has remained in power at the three civic bodies over the last 15 years.

However, the seats of several senior civic body leaders — including former and current Mayors, and Leaders of the Opposition — have now been marked under the reserved categories, after the ward rotation exercise by the State Election Commission (SEC). The SEC had released the list of reserved seats earlier this week.

Fresh faces

“A change in candidates is not a concern. The larger focus is the BJP looting the civic bodies. We will have new and interesting candidates coming up. Our goal is to bring a change in the civic body leadership. However, it is too early to say who will get tickets,” said Mr. Pathak.

The seats of several senior BJP municipal leaders – including Delhi unit president Adesh Gupta and three sitting Mayors – have now been brought under the reserved category. The AAP, which has emerged as the principal Opposition party, also finds itself in a similar situation, with the seats of its three leaders now falling in the reserved categories.

The number of seats reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates stands at 46, while 114 seats are reserved for women.

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s Leader of the Opposition, Prem Chauhan, who represents the Dakshin Puri ward, said that with his seat now being reserved for women, for him the idea of fighting from a different ward brings its own set of challenges.

Rotation exercise

He added, “For a period of five years, councillors engage with the people in their ward and work for them. A councillor’s ward is a very crucial factor in the civic body election and when they fight from a new ward, there is a high chance that the results will not be positive because they have not engaged with the people for a long period. This rotation exercise definitely affects the candidates.”

Senior Congress councillor, Abhishek Dutt, who represents the Andrews Ganj ward, said, “Whether I fight from an adjacent ward is a call that the party leadership has to take. If the councillor works hard, then the party will give a ticket to the individual. This election is fought at a micro-level, where people expect the councillor to look after their area.”

Former North Delhi Mayor Jai Prakash who represents the Sadar Bazar ward, said that the seats being reserved for women meant “new faces will come up”. The BJP fielded new candidates across all wards in 2017 and won the polls by a huge margin”.

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