After a tight race between Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP in early rounds of counting, the AAP has started to widen its lead.
At 11 am, three hours into the counting, the AAP led in 125 of the 250 wards. Despite early see-saw trends, the BJP now leads in 109 wards, having overtaken AAP several times.
According to exit polls, the AAP was predicted to sweep, but the counting threw up a tight contest. Raghav Chadha and Manish Sisodia rushed to the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Bhagwant Mann was also present.
Since the morning, the AAP office has been displaying balloons and celebratory posters. Based on an average of four exit polls, AAP won in 155 wards; BJP won 84 seats and Congress won seven.
Despite not having formed the Delhi state government in the past 24 years, the BJP has maintained strong control over MCD. Despite winning 67 of 70 seats in the 2015 assembly polls, the BJP retained 181 of 272 seats in the MCD two years later. With 48 votes, AAP came in second and Congress came in third.
Both AAP and BJP currently control parts of Delhi’s administration through state and central governments. Three of the Congress’ nominations were rejected on technical grounds in 247 wards.
Since the MCD was reunified and the wards redrawn around 10 years ago, these are the first civic elections. BJP’s latest term ended early this year. There are more than 1,300 candidates in the race.
One of the highlights of the BJP’s campaign was getting PM Narendra Modi to hand over keys to some slum rehab flats. Union ministers and chief ministers were also deployed. Leaders at the local level played a distant second fiddle.
Since early last year, the AAP has been preparing. It kept its pitch directly mounted on the garbage issue: “We’ve improved things under the state, now let us take care of sanitation too.” The slogan “Kejriwal’s government, Kejriwal’s corporator” rivalled the BJP’s similar pitch of “Modi’s double engine” – both focusing on their top leaders’ faces.
In addition to housing promises, the BJP has pressed corruption charges against several AAP ministers. These have also been used by the Congress to poke fun at the AAP. Mr Kejriwal, however, says he will not be defeated by “bogus charges” or “misuse of central agencies”.
At least some pockets of influence are hoped for by the Congress. After Sheila Dikshit’s death in 2019, Delhi is still rebuilding. Since it focuses on macro-politics of ideology, as evident in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in central India, civic body elections aren’t its top priority. Not as high as those on the AAP and BJP’s lists.
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