Delhi MCD Polls: Who Will Win the big battle?

Elections to the recently reunified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) are scheduled to be held towards the end of this year or in early 2023. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is responsible for the jurisdiction of eight districts of Delhi, while the other districts fall under the jurisdiction of the New Delhi Municipal Council […]

Elections to the recently reunified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) are scheduled to be held towards the end of this year or in early 2023. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is responsible for the jurisdiction of eight districts of Delhi, while the other districts fall under the jurisdiction of the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has so far won three consecutive elections of the civic authority, regardless of the party being in control in the centre and in the capital. The BJP won the last municipal election in the capital, securing 181 out of the 272 seats with a vote share of 36.08%. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won the Assembly elections in the state, securing a clear majority has so far been unable to win support in the civic body elections in the capital. The AAP secured 49 seats in the last municipal election with a vote share of 26.23%.
Campaaigning for the MCD elections reached a dramatic turning point last week as members of the BJP and AAP in Delhi confronted one another in Ghazipur while holding demonstrations and yelling at one another. The AAP has been blaming the BJP for its improper management of the three waste sites in Delhi, namely Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa. The party is using the lack of proper waste management by the BJP as one of its key campaign issues in the upcoming polls. The BJP on the other hand has been blaming the AAP’s “corrupt” government in power in the capital for the lack of development and proper implementation of policies across the city. Both parties are likely to be in a tight race during the civic body polls.

Why were the 2022 elections postponed?

The 2022 Delhi Municipal Elections were scheduled to be conducted earlier this year in April. The State Election Commission had also issued notices, notifications and orders indicating the same as the term of the current Municipal Corporation was scheduled to end in May 2022. However, due to the announcement of the reunification of the three municipal bodies in the capital, the elections were postponed indefinitely.
On 22nd March 2022, the Union Government approved the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, which announced the merging of the 3 municipal corporations into one single body. The unified Corporation of Delhi formally came into existence on the same day. As part of the amendment, the total number of councillor seats was also reduced from 272 to 250. In 2012, the corporation was trifurcated into three divisions- East, North and South. Government sources speaking to media outlets mentioned the decision to reunify the corporations was done keeping in mind their “precarious financial situation.”
However, members of the AAP said they believed the reunification was just a “tactic” by the BJP to delay the elections as they thought that they were going to lose the civic body polls.

What are the parties promising?

The BJP’s campaign for the civic body polls has been ongoing for the past year, with the Delhi BJP General Secretary Siddharthan promising that party workers in each mandal would arrange free pilgrimages every month for Hindus. In addition to this, the party also promised that it will develop a mechanism for the direct flow of funds from the Centre to the municipal corporations in lieu of the financial crisis plaguing the MCD. Party President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah also promised that the party would make the city garbage-free and would ensure the complete processing of daily waste by 2025.
Overall, the key issues the party is focusing on for the elections are corruption and accusations against the Deputy Chief Minister, Health Minister, as well as other senior members of the AAP. The party will also focus on the alleged mishandling of the implementation of various policies by the party. Delhi BJP leaders Manoj Tiwari, Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma and Manjinder Singh Sirsa visited the Yamuna River near Kalindi Kunj and took a boat ride to highlight the Delhi government’s inaction in cleaning the river. Tiwari alleged that Kejriwal had promised to clean the Yamuna in 2013, but despite spending Rs 1,200 crores, the Yamuna is still heavily polluted.
Both the AAP and BJP have been playing a blame game, accusing each other of mishandling funds or policies. On 27th October, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the Ghazipur landfill site and said the upcoming MCD polls will be fought on the garbage issue. He promised to clean Delhi in five years if the AAP wins the elections and also blamed the BJP for giving three garbage mountains and filling the city with garbage in its 15-year rule in Delhi’s three erstwhile municipal corporations. He further claimed that the corruption in the civic bodies has resulted in these garbage mountains. The party also alleged that more than 7 million work hours were lost due to several strikes by the municipal staff due to non-payment of salaries in 2021. In addition to this, the party is also alleging that there has been a misappropriation of funds in the current government. The party has alleged that according to information received through the RTI act, Rs. 6,760 crores has gone “missing” from the MCD’s parking and conversion fee escrow account and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe against the same.

Who will win control of the civic body?

The capital city of Delhi is maintained and looked after by its civic agencies. As a part of their campaign strategies leading up to the polls, both the AAP and BJP started to play a blame game, passing allegations against one another regarding corruption and misappropriation of funds.
Although the AAP has secured a clear majority in the past two Assembly elections in the city, winning a whopping 62 out of 67 seats during the 2020 Assembly polls, it has failed to gain control of the civic body till now.
The BJP on the other hand has enjoyed a winning streak in the civic body elections since 2007.
The upcoming elections are likely to be a tough fight between the BJP and the AAP. Victory in the MCD elections is considered significant as it gives parties full-fledged control over Delhi’s administration, especially since the functions and responsibilities of the MCD greatly overlap with the Delhi government.
The MCD is a powerful stakeholder in the administration of Delhi with its jurisdiction over 11 million people.
It is also one of the richest Municipal Corporations in India with an annual budget of Rs.15,276 crores for the financial year 2022-23.