Mohit Yaduvanshi and Manish Kumar
Delhi MCD Elections for 272 ward councillors scheduled to be held on 23rd April 2017 has acquired much attention in the mainstream media as well as the social media. There are several factors which make this election an unprecedented one. Firstly, after the profound victory of BJP in UP assembly polls, this urban municipal election falls next in the line. Secondly, after the decimation of the opposition forces such as Congress, BSP and SP in UP assembly elections by the BJP, this election gives another much awaited opportunity to the BJP to settle its score with AAP. Thirdly, after the urban body elections in Maharashtra and Odisha, this is another municipal body election where the BJP would like to continue its victory march; interestingly, despite BJP having ruled the MCD for ten years, no visible anti-incumbency is in sight. Fourthly, this local municipal election is being projected as a referendum on AAP and Kejriwal, a sort of ‘semi-final’ before the next Delhi assembly elections. Fifthly, it is the debut for Swaraj India, which promises an idealistic, value-based politics and also the JD (U) whose electoral prospect is very much entangled with the support of ‘poorvanchal’ voters. Lastly, this election is also an opportunity for Congress to reclaim its lost ground.
As a part of ‘International Elections Studies Association of India’ (IESAI) research initiative to cover Delhi MCD elections 2017, our team visited the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) area of Delhi. In our field research and election survey, we collected information through interviews (both formal and informal) with the candidates of different parties and also the electorates of the area.
Area Covered: There are Three Municipal bodies in Delhi namely South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), which are going to poll on 23rd April 2017. As a research team, we visited SDMC area, particularly, Mohan Garden South (25-S ward) and Mohan Garden North (26-S ward), Nangali Sakrawati (34-S ward) and five wards of Nazafgarh (Gopal Nagar, Dichaon Kalan, Najafgarh, Rosan Pura and Ishapur). To be precise, our analysis is based on the field survey of these aforementioned wards of the SDMC.
Mohan Garden South (25-S ward): The total number of candidates contesting from this ward is nine. Mohan Garden area has been redistributed for 2017 Delhi MCD election. The sitting Councillor from Mohan Garden is from the Congress party. In 25-S ward of Mohan Garden South, we conducted interviews of contesting candidates from different parties and voters of the ward. In our interaction with the electorates, we found that there is a widespread dissatisfaction for the sitting councillor. Perhaps sensing the people’s mood, Congress, this time, has replaced the councillor and has given the ticket to Manoj Kumar Goel with a hope to maintain its hold in the ward. On the other hand, Shyam Kumar Mishra who is an experienced politician and has served the RSS and BJP in different roles is contesting from the BJP ticket. Though Sushil Kumar Sharma (Ritu Raj) and some others also tried to seek ticket from the BJP but were denied by the party. As a result, Ritu Raj has turned into a rebel and could create trouble for Shyam Kumar Mishra. As regards AAP, it has put faith in Sangeeta Shukla for whom the fight seems to be quite tough. Besides BJP, Congress, and AAP some other parties like Swaraj India, BSP, AIFB (All India Forward Bloc) are also contesting and have made the contest more interesting. Our interaction with the voters of the area shows that the main fight is going to be among Manoj Kumar Goel, Shyam Kumar Mishra, and Sushil Kumar Sharma (Ritu Raj). Moreover, the popularity of Ritu Raj and Shyam Kumar Mishra is quite impressive in this ward. In our interaction with one of the elderly voters, we found out that there is a widespread dissatisfaction with the functioning of the MCD but he reposits his faith in BJP because of Narendra Modi. Showering abuses on the leaders of every political party, he pauses for a while and mutters “Modi pe abhi bharosa hata nahi, uske pahle kaun tha kahan tha wo baat hatao”. That reflects the overall trend of the constituency.
Mohan Garden North (26-S):
A total number of Six Candidate is contesting election from this ward. The sitting Councillor from Mohan Garden north is from the congress Party. The main parties who have fielded their candidates from this area are BJP, Congress, AAP, BSP and Swaraj India. There is only one independent candidate from this ward who is contesting an election. Like Mohan Garden South, here also, people are dissatisfied with the sitting councillor. The main issues of this area are related to road, drainage system, hospital and water supply. The main contest from the area is expected to be among the AAP candidate Shakuntala, BJP candidate Babita and Congress candidate Shalini Sharma. However, because of people’s dissatisfaction with the Congress’s councillor and the AAP MLA the BJP is placed in a strong position.
Najafgarh Zone: Candidates and their Prospects
There are five main wards from Najafgarh Zone – Gopal Nagar (41-S), Dichaon Kalan (42-S), Najafgarh (43-S), Rosan Pura (44-S) and Ishapur (45-S). Gopal Nagar (41-S): A total of 11 candidates are contesting from this ward. Here, the main parties are Congress, BJP, AAP, INLD (Indian National Lok Dal), JD (U), BSP and Swaraj India. Beside the contestants from these parties, rest of the candidates are contesting as independents. It is important to note here that the independent candidates can provide tough competition to the main stream parties as they have emerged victorious in the past. Interestingly, the BJP had never won from this region.
Dichaon Kalan (42-S): In total, 9 candidates are contesting election from this ward. The main contest from this ward is between the INLD candidate Lalita Rani and the BJP candidate Sandeep Shokeen. However, in our interaction with the electorates, we found that Sandeep Shokeen of BJP is in the advantageous position. Najafgarh (43-S): There are mainly nine candidates who are contesting election from this ward. The main contest is among the candidates of AAP and BJP and an independent candidate Mrs. Meena Devi. The competition here is quite tough as compared to other wards of Najafgarh because voters are divided along party and caste line. Rosan Pura (44-S): A total number of 13 candidates are contesting election from this ward. The main fight in this ward is between the sitting councillor Mrs. Indu and congress candidates J K Sharma. But J K Sharma of Congress has a strong hold over the vote bank of this ward. Nangali Sakrawati (34-S): While talking to different stakeholders of the MCD election when we entered this ward a complicated picture emerged. Situated on the outskirts of South-West Delhi, this ward is densely populated by the immigrants from UP and Bihar (collectively referred as Poorvanchalis), many of whom have purchased land here and yet maintained ties with their roots. In this ward, issues related to water, electricity and sanitation remain a major concern for the electorates. Looking at the demographical aspect, one tends to believe that a ‘poorvanchali’ candidate will win the seat.
This is also being reflected in the distribution of tickets by all the political parties who have given priority to ‘poorvanchali candidate’ over others except the Congress. In such a scenario, the vote of these ‘poorvanchali’ people is expected to get divided. Still, the ‘obvious’ (read advantage to the Congress) is a bit tricky to predict. And this makes the MCD election in this ward more interesting as there are 13 candidates contesting from this area. Congress, who has put its weight behind the non-poorvanchali candidate, is hoping to consolidate Jat voters that constitute the second largest group in this region. Overall, local issues, caste, identity, and candidate are important matters in this particular ward. However, loyalty and political history of the candidates are irrelevant when it comes to getting the ticket from this ward. While talking to Hari Prasad, a migrant from UP, we found out that there is a divide within the poorvanchali voters on various issues. When we probed him further, he said: “Delhites are not fool like the people of UP, they do not want BJP to rule everywhere.” In his extended family, different people are voting for different candidates and that affects their day to day relationship.
The SDMC elections, 2017 is relevant for BJP, AAP, Congress, Swaraj India in the sense that its mandate or outcome will significantly affect the performance of these parties in the next Delhi Legislative assembly election. Therefore, every candidate and the parties are putting in their full efforts to convince electorates in their favour. But it is important to critically examine the dogmas or convictions that confine it to party-centric perspective because the main concerns and issues that have been raised and that govern the choices of electorates in SDMC 2017 election is essentially or particularly local and regional. Therefore, Delhi MCD election 2017 cannot be reduced to the popularity test of any leader or party. What does matter most is the face value of candidate and local issues and concern of the ward.
In our observation, we find that ticket distribution in MCD civic poll has affected the integrity and organizational structure of the political parties because it caused division, rift, and conflict amongst the worker, office bearers and leaders of party. The SDMC election 2017 clearly reflect this rift, where most of the candidates who used to be active in BJP, Congress and any other party are dissatisfied with the ticket distribution and have shifted their political loyalty.
It is important to note that almost half of the total candidates who are contesting the election in SDMC election are independent. Among Independent candidates, most of them are those who have turned rebellious or shifted their political affiliation. There is a possibility that if won as an independent they may return back to their original parties. In our interactions with the voters, we found that demography of Delhi as a state must be taken into consideration that very much influences the interplay of caste and region of electoral politics. In Delhi, most of its electorates have migrated from the different part of India and have a continuous affiliation with the state of their ancestors. Also, although the voters of different caste have their root in Delhi in terms of their livelihood, property and political membership but in terms of their roots that include their language, food, customs and cultural traits, these voters are more closely associated with their state of origin. Therefore, a Yadav from Bihar usually prefers a Yadav of Bihar rather than a Yadav of Haryana and the same logic applies to the Jat of UP and Haryana. So, in the context of the MCD elections, caste and region have a complex interplay that needs to be understood and re-examined. In short, the MCD election is significant for voters as an opportunity on the part of the voter to ensure accountability and political responsibility.
Manish Kumar, PhD Scholar, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi
Mohit Kumar, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Bhagini Nivedita College, University of Delhi.