MCD poll: A big setback for Sheila
The results of the Muncipal Corporation of Delhi elections have reiterated that the Congress continues to be at the receiving end. The most significant factor in these polls has been that both party men and opponents have been holding Delhi Chief Minister and her performance as the reason for this debacle.
On her part, Sheila Dikshit has distanced herself from the result stating that it were elections to the MCD and not hers. BJP leaders feel that it was her arrogance and therefore it was a referendum against her. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is normally silent on poll results has advised the Delhi leaders to take the defeat in their stride while blaming the loss on local factors. And the blame game goes on while the Congress is getting weaker and weaker by the day, something that should worry the High Command.
There are of course several ways of looking at the result. The easy way would be to blame corruption and price rise for the poor outcome. Dikshit’s son, Sandeep has stated that price rise did them in. But the question that needs to be asked is that if price rise was the issue than how have 80 congressmen won the polls. It should have affected them as well. There is no doubt that the Congress graph throughout the country has been dismal and unless its leadership wakes up to the ground realities, the string of defeats will continue to haunt the party.
Another way of analyzing the outcome would be through the prism of the party’s campaign in the capital. All advertisements and propaganda harped on the so-called achievements of the Delhi government and pitted them against the so-called failures of the BJP controlled MCD. This was done knowing fully well that there is multiplicity of authority in the capital and civic amenities are equally divided between the civic body and the government. For instance Sewage, water and power supply are with the government and not with the corporation. In many instances the roads have not been repaired on account of the sewage department not meeting its deadline. So in such instances are those who are building the road to be blamed or those who look after the Sewer.
The short point is that people in the capital are fed up with constant digging and delay in execution of jobs. In Connaught Place for instance which falls in the NDMC area and is not in the MCD jurisdiction, the entire project stands terribly delayed. Who should get the blame for this. There are many who also are disappointed that the pavements constructed during the commonwealth games are in a state of total neglect.
The Delhi government, which has been accused, of financial irregularities by the Shunglu committee and the CAG has to absolve itself of corruption before it can stand on a high moral ground. This is where the reason of the defeat can be put at the doorstep of the Delhi government. It is a little surprise that barring Arvinder Singh Lovely, no Delhi minister has fared well in the wards in his or her respective assembly segment. Lovely alone won three out of four and lost the fourth by only 200 votes. It is evident that the people who cast their vote have targeted the government. It was after all the Delhi CM who had recommended the trifurcation of the MCD with the stated explanation that it would increase efficiency. People have obviously given her an answer of what they thought of her proposal.
To my mind there was also a political reason for the trifurcation of the MCD. Like the `C’ grade Delhi Assembly, MCD is the only other major body, which sends directly, elected representatives of the people to provide governance. The MCD has also been the route to the city politics and some of the top leaders have made it big through the MCD route. Examples of HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Jai Prakash Aggarwal, Ch. Prem Singh and late Ram Babu Sharma are there for all to see. In 2002 when the Congress controlled both the Delhi government and the Corporation, Ram Babu Sharma had emerged as a parallel power centre and was as powerful as the Delhi Chief Minister. Therefore to prevent such a situation from emerging again, the Delhi CM perhaps wanted to ensure that the MCD was divided three ways and did not throw up a leader who could challenge her supremacy. The move got the backing of the bureaucracy since it opened up promotional avenues for the Babus. It is very clear that the trifurcation has boomeranged on the Congress leader.
I have another take on the MCD polls. It is unfair to blame Sheila Dikshit singularly for the debacle. The Delhi Congress Chief Jai Prakash Aggarwal has demonstrated how dismal the election management was this time. It is another thing that in East Delhi, which is represented by him, and Sandeep Dikshit, Congress has been given a drubbing. Coming to the electoral management, many people who were on the campaign committee received their letters of appointment only two days before the polls. It was also for everyone to see that the Congress worker did not come out on the polling day in all areas. It is obvious that the worker is disillusioned with the Delhi leadership and has his misgivings about the top central leadership as well. This is what the Congress High Command needs to address urgently.
The BJP of course had no reason to win but has won largely because of the perseverance of its state president Vijendra Gupta who refused to be tamed by the strong Congress propaganda. The Saffron brigade may have found a new leader in him who can in the course of time fill the void left by Madan Lal Khurana and his contemporaries. But even the Congress needs to look at younger leadership if it has to repackage itself. Sheila Dikshit has been the longest serving CM but she cannot be there forever. Someone young and energetic has to be groomed from now itself.