Elections to the city’s civic wards will be held on December 4 and results will be announced on December 7, the state election commission (SEC) announced on Friday, setting up what is likely to be a bitter fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over a host of issues such as sanitation, the Capital’s towering garbage dumps, corruption, and corporation taxes.
The announcement came over eight months after the elections were meant to be called but were aborted when the Union government decided to dissolve Delhi’s erstwhile municipal corporations and reunify them into a single municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD), a process that also involved whittling down of the wards from 272 to 250.
State election commissioner Vijay Dev said that, with the announcement, the model code of conduct for the polls now come into force and nominations of the candidates will start from Monday (November 7).
The elections will pit the incumbent BJP, which has controlled the municipal corporations in the Capital over the last 15 years, against the AAP, which is seeking to turn an anti-incumbency factor into its advantage.
For the 14,673,847 registered electors, their choices will largely be influenced by pressing civic issues, such as the city’s garbage management and landfills, corruption, the tax hike during the unification process, pollution, and degradation of civic infrastructure including colony roads, waterlogging, primary health, and the education system.
“Over the last 15 years, the BJP has spread garbage across the city and created mountains of garbage. On 4th December, people of Delhi will be voting for cleaning the city, making it hygienic and beautiful. This time Delhi will select AAP in the municipal corporation,” AAP chief and Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Over the last month, the AAP has been targeting the BJP over the garbage issue and allegation of plans to set up 16 new landfills across the city – something that has been repeatedly denied by MCD and the BJP.
Delhi BJP, on the other hand, has raised alleged issues of corruption in Delhi government and investigation cases that have been initiated over the last five months, along with the ongoing air pollution crisis.
“We will seek votes over the sewa (service) provided by the BJP. We are entering this election battlefield with the blessings of God and the party is ready for elections. AAP has not been able to either clean Delhi’s air or Yamuna river and party that came on the plank of honesty is now engaged in host of scams and scandals,” said Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta.
The election commissioner said that the poll preparation has been undertaken at a record pace. He added that out of 250 MCD wards, 42 have been reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates, half of which will be reserved for SC women candidates, while 104 additional wards will be reserved for female candidates, leaving 104 wards to be contested as general seats.
The SEC has stated that over 100,000 polling staff will be deployed across 13,665 polling stations, which will be equipped with 55,000 electronic voting machines. Dev said that the expenditure cap for each candidate has been raised from ₹5.75 lakh in 2017 elections to ₹8 lakh for 2022 elections.
After the unification and conclusion of delimitation exercise mandated by Parliament, the number of wards in the MCD has come down by 22 wards. The parallel unification process has also led to increase in taxes for the residents for East and North Delhi, where rates have now been brought at par with South Delhi.
The process has led to a steep hike in taxes and levies such as trade licenses, health licenses, storage fee and property tax.
BJP has attempted to counter this impact by projecting Samriddhi property tax amnesty scheme under which defaulters are allowed to pay pending taxes for last six years, and amounts from 2004 onwards can be waived off.
Originally, MCD elections were scheduled to be held in April.
The last two civic elections took place in three separate civic bodies – North, South and East MCD. Out of 272 seats spread across three corporations in 2017 MCD elections, the BJP secured 181 seats, the AAP won 49 seats while the Congress was in third spot with 31 seats.
A senior civic official explained that besides the reduction in overall number of wards, each ward in Delhi will now have 40,000-89,000 voters with seats spread across 24 assembly constituencies undergoing major changes in terms of name and size.
The Union home ministry accepted and notified the final delimitation report through two notifications on October 17. A total of 23 wards were removed and one ward has been introduced.
Dev has said delimitation has been carried out by keeping all factors in mind but the matter is sub judice, a reference to the Congress’s petition challenging the process, and the final verdict of the court can have an overriding effect on the poll plan announced by the commission.
Sanjay Kumar, professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said that the Gujarat assembly elections and the Delhi MCD elections have been announced by the two different constitutional authorities so any motive cannot be ascribed to the simultaneous polls, but there seems to be a clear effort to pin down the AAP as they have limited resources, money and manpower and they would have been able to pay more attention to each of these elections if they were held separately. On the difference in holding elections between April and December, Kumar said that if the elections were held at that time AAP would have benefitted from the euphoria after the victory in Punjab assembly elections. “In comparison to elections at that time, AAP has some setback as it will have to channelise its resources in a much more efficient manner.”