Delhi Polls - A Curtain Raiser

With voting and result dates announced on February 7 and February 10 respectively, in less than a month's time, we will get to know who is forming Government in Delhi.

Delhi has been under President's rule for approximately a year since Kejriwal resigned in February last year. With the Congress becoming a non-factor in Delhi, Assembly poll has become a two cornered fight between BJP and AAP.

Delhi being the national Capital houses the Parliament, the Raj Bhavan, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister, members of Parliament, Union Cabinet Ministers, and headquarters of all political parties. Hence, Delhi is always politically charged and people here are politically aware. It does not enjoy full Statehood, despite having a Chief Minister, Legislature and Lieutenant Governor. Administrative responsibilities of the State are shared by the Central Government, State Government and Civic bodies.

Delhi is the second most populous city of the country, 1.67 crores as per 2011 census. Its population density is highest among the States. It boasts of the highest per capita income (Rs. 2,10,000) in India as of 2013. Only 8 per cent people live below poverty line as compared to national average of 27 percent. However, 50 percent of the population lives in slums without basic civic amenities.

Election was held for the State for the first time in 1951 and Congress won the election (39/48). Bhartiya Jan Sangh, the parent organisation of BJP, had then bagged 5 seats with a handsome vote share of 22 per cent. This, despite the fact that Congress was the only party known to majority of the people in India then! Chaudhary Brahm Prakash was the first Chief Minister of Delhi. In 1956, Delhi was made a union territory and the post of Chief Minister was abolished. The Legislative Assembly and the Council of Ministers were abolished simultaneously.

By the 69th Amendment to the Constitution, Assembly was re-instated and Delhi came to be formally known as National Capital Territory of Delhi. In 1993 State Assembly election, buoyed by the Ram Mandir movement, BJP won the majority comfortably bagging 49/70 seats with a 43 per cent vote share. Congress nationally had become weak during this period after Rajiv Gandhi's death and Janata Dal too had occupied national space. Janata Dal got 13 per cent vote share and was one reason for Congress's defeat. Factionalism in Congress with Sajjan Kumar, ML Fotedar, RK Dhawan and JS Tytler not seeing eye-to-eye was also attributed to Congress's rout.

In 1998, BJP was down to just 15 seats. Congress romped home with 51/70 seats. BJP changed 3 Chief Ministers during its tenure and groupism between Saheb Singh Verma and Madan Lal Khurana made matters worse. Sushma Swaraj, national leader was made CM, just 40 days before elections but it didn't help. Onion prices had gone up the roof (>Rs. 100 per kg) and this too played its part in the defeat. BJP lost despite its Government at the Center and having swept Lok Sabha polls a few months back. Sheila Dixit became the CM.

In 2003, Sheila Dixit managed to retain Delhi by winning 47 seats. Both Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma had moved to national politics. BJP didn’t have a leader to take on Sheila’s might. In 2008, Sheila again won the elections with 40 seats. Congress Government at the Center helped her cause. Though BJP increased its seats from 15 to 20 in 2003 to 23 in 2008, it couldn’t lodge out Sheila. The State witnessed good development work during her regime - ring road, metro, flyovers etc. The fact that Delhi is administratively managed by different authorities - entral, State as well as civic bodies helped Sheila to some extent. Though am not taking away anything from her. People believed what they saw and attributed it to Sheila, though much of the work was done by Central Government.

In 2013, Sheila completed her 15 years as the Chief Minister. Things changed dramatically; there was anti-incumbency factor against Congress Government. It was embroiled in scams - 2G, coal, choppergate, Adarsh society, Aircel-Maxis and many more. People were fed up with UPA-II and had lost confidence. Sheila Government too was embroiled in CWG scam. The disillusionment led to Anna Hazare leading a movement against corruption and demanding establishment of Jan Lokpal. This received massive public support. Delhi was the epicentre of this movement. Arvind Kejriwal, aide of Anna, along with a few others decided to form a political party to take on the system and Aam Aadmi Party was born. The party did extraordinarily well in its debut and went on to win 28 seats. BJP won 31 seats and its ally Akali Dal 1 seat, falling 4 short of majority. Congress, which lost 3 States to BJP (Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh) just before Lok Sabha polls, didn’t want a 4-0 score line and offered AAP outside support. AAP made a U-turn and with the support of Congress formed the Government, only to resign in 49 days.

The stage is set again for a BJP-AAP showdown. PM Modi held a big rally at Ramlila Maidan attacking the anarchist ways of AAP & Kejriwal without naming them. Will the slogan of development work for BJP and Modi or will Delhi vote for the maverick Kejriwal. Will same Government at the Centre and in the State slogan work for BJP or will Delhi vote for a local face in the name of 'there should be a viable/healthy opposition in the country'?

Courtesy Niti Central




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