In the third week of April the voters of Delhi will be choosing new members for the three corporations in the metropolis. In normal course it would have been a low key affair compared to the assembly or the Lok Sabha polls. But with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on a mission to conquer every nook and cranny of the country it is bound to be a high-pitched contest.
The BJP will hope to win to ‘reaffirm’ people’s faith in its policies, including the controversial demonetisation order of last November. The Opposition will bank on the Delhi voter to show ‘better’ judgement than the voters in UP did recently. The BJP rules the three civic bodies in Delhi and goes to the polls with the advantage of the ‘Modi factor’. The Congress, already written off by many, would like to spring a surprise.
According to some reports, the BJP has already roped in Modi for campaigning in the civic polls. It will be another first of sorts because prime ministers are not expected to be campaigners in polls at levels lower than the Assembly. But conventions and traditions have to be revisited or redefined if the goal is establish one-party supremacy over more than 1.2 billion people who, of course, include nearly 13 million people of the national capital.
The captive Delhi voter has no choice but to watch the Great Civic Poll Show which will be enlivened not only by Modi Speak and the traditional Congress-BJP rivalry in Delhi but with the appearance of the Aam Admi Party seeking to remain relevant by replicating its performance in the Delhi assembly poll about three years ago when it had astounded everyone by grabbing 67 of the 70 seats. By most accounts, AAP will not find things that easy in the civic polls. That makes the contest worth watching. For the first time Delhi civic polls will be a triangular affair which often raise the spectre of a hung house.
Perhaps the likelihood of a keen triangular contest lends some excitement to the polls. But it will be disappointing if only politics or the fate of the three main political parties in the fray becomes the focus of public interest.
Being a city with a high literacy rate, a fair degree of prosperity, and a preponderance of well-connected people the voter of Delhi is expected to exercise his/her franchise carefully and not be carried away by politicians’ rhetoric and false promises. ‘Issues’ of immediate concern should matter more than anything else.
This is where optimism wanes. For too long, the quality of civic amenities in Delhi has been low, unworthy of a capital city. The politicians who have been in power in civic bodies in Delhi—the original monolith body was divided into three, allegedly for better services—have shown more interest in blaming each other rather than addressing the problems in their wards.
The politicians have discovered a ‘legitimate’ reason for passing the buck and disowning their own responsibilities. The multiplicity of authorities in Delhi has undoubtedly been a curse. But that does not absolve the politicians who ruled in Delhi of the charge of negligence of their duty towards the citizens of the national capital.
It is agreed that multiplicity of authority obstructs progress and implementation of projects and programmes. But it cannot be accepted as a permanent excuse for inefficiency or shirking of duty.
The city of Delhi—and many other urban areas– has a long experience of multiplicity of authorities. Every politician in Delhi knows about it. Instead of using it as a scapegoat for their poor performance these politicians could have done better by evolving a method to get over the problems created by different authorities in running the national capital.
Another excuse used by politicians for the poor state of civic amenities in Delhi is the fact of opposing parties being in power in the civic body and the government of the national capital and at the federal level.
The politicians ought to sort out problems they may have with each other for the sake of the ordinary people of the city. After all, they seek vote on the assurance of looking after the welfare and interest of the ordinary people. They are very well aware of the ‘hurdles’ they are likely to face when they have to deal with political rivals at different levels.
It is odd that politicians of all hues seek votes in the name of serving the people but once in power forget their pledges and the people who elect them. But some might argue that the fault also lies with the people—the voter—who become generously forgiving at the time of the polls.
The Aam Admi Party, still considered a tyro in politics, will probably hope that its entry in the civic polls will jolt the two parties in the civic poll fray. But that does not look very possible. It may not have been in active politics for long but in its comparatively short stint it has shown many negative tendencies of the established parties.
Many AAP members have invited the same charges and allegations that members of older parties have. As the ruling party in Delhi state, AAP has lost a lot of its sheen by indulging in a seemingly endless spat with the Lieutenant Governor, the representative of the central government. Things might have improved a little after a new LG took over in Delhi. But a lot of damage has been already.
AAP will perhaps bank on its vigorous publicity campaign. Its disadvantage will be the unexpected drubbing it received in two assembly polls recently. It will hope that people would have forgotten the ugly sight of Delhi streets strewn with garbage when the ‘Safai Karmacharis’ had gone on strike while it was fighting with the (previous) LG over, alleged working at the behest of the central government.
People will not decide about their choice of candidate on the basis of one major lapse but what cannot be overlooked is that often the impressions of one major inconvenience remains fixed in the minds, relegating many good things that might have happened during the same period. More than the scattered garbage on the streets, what many in Delhi will not be able to forget is that the quarrelling politicians were spending more energy and time in blaming each other rather than find ways to resolve the issues of their concern.
All parties in the civic poll fray are again making promises and assuring the voter that they will be well served. But none of the parties has presented a blue print for tackling the biggest problem of all: eliminating the ill-effects of multiplicity of authorities in Delhi. This is a problem not confined to Delhi. But if Delhi finds a way to overcome it, urban India will be a better—and ‘Swachch’ (clean)–place to live in. Syndicate Features