AAP vs BJP Today In Delhi’s First Civic Polls After Big Merger

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In today’s elections for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the AAP is targeting greater control over garbage in the national capital. As for the Congress, it hopes to gain some ground back, while the BJP is confident of extending its reign.

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The 250 wards were redrawn after the last term of the BJP ended early this year, and nearly 1.5 crore people are eligible to vote in these elections. Polling stations are open from 8 am to 5.30 pm, after which only those already inside can vote. As of 10.30 am, 9 percent of votes had been cast.

On voting day, metro rail services start two hours earlier than usual at 4am. The results will be announced on December 7. There are 68 model polling stations and as many pink polling stations covering all assembly segments in the city.

There are over 1,300 candidates in the race. Both the AAP and BJP currently control parts of Delhi’s administration through state and central governments. After AAP emerged in Delhi, the Congress has struggled to regain its ground, fighting on 247 seats after three of its candidates’ nominations were rejected.

Congress and AAP’s state governments have held strong control over MCD for the past 24 years, even though the BJP has not formed the Delhi state government.

In 2015, the AAP won 67 of the 70 seats in the Assembly elections, but two years later, the BJP won 181 of the 272 seats, retaining the civic body. The AAP was second with 48 votes, and the Congress was third with 30 votes.

In a campaign that demonstrated the importance of the city battle, the BJP got PM Narendra Modi to hand over keys to some slum rehab flats — one of its campaign highlights.

It also deployed union ministers led by Amit Shah, party Chief JP Nadda, and several chief ministers. As a result, local leaders played a distant second fiddle.

Since early last year, the AAP has been preparing. The party kept its pitch straight on garbage: “We’ve improved things in the state, now let’s take care of sanitation too.” Kejriwal’s government, Kejriwal’s corporator” rivalled the BJP’s similar pitch of “Modi’s double engine” — both focusing on the faces of their top leaders.

Several AAP ministers have been charged with corruption by the BJP, including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. CCTV videos of arrested minister Satyendar Jain getting “special treatment” in Tihar Jail have come out. The Congress has also used these to take digs at AAP.

But the AAP has kept decibels high in claiming to be “kattar imaandar” (staunchly honest). Mr Kejriwal says his “shaandaar” (glorious) work as chief minister won’t be defeated by “bogus charges” and “misuse of central agencies”.

Due to Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in central India, civic body elections aren’t a priority for the Congress. They’re certainly not a priority for the AAP and BJP.

A little more than three years after Delhi’s riots, religion-based rhetoric — some of which is perceived as communal propaganda — continues to float. Social media isn’t bound by geography, so rhetoric from Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat also reached Delhi’s civic space.

Security is important because stakes are high, and rhetoric is sharp. Nearly 70,000 people have been deployed, including 40,000 state police, 20,000 Home Guard, and 8,000-odd paramilitary and state armed police personnel. Among the police’s priorities is preventing communal flare-ups. In addition, 60 drone cameras will hover over sensitive areas.

Three poll battles have been fought in parallel over the past couple of months in Delhi – assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, where the BJP is also in power. Unlike Himachal, where the Congress and BJP fought, Gujarat is where the AAP is trying to push the Congress aside and take power.

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