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BJP sweeps Delhi municipality polls, calls it Modi wave

BJP sweeps  Delhi municipality polls, calls it  Modi wave

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said when he took office in May 2014 that he was a stranger to Delhi. But, on Wednesday, his opponents were left feeling just as strange in the city, which elected the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a third consecutive term, defying and endorsing competing patterns.

The BJP won all three wards of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD), which excited TV channels had turned into a contest between Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who heads the Aam Aadmi Party government after a dizzying victory in 2015.

The BJP won 64 of 104 wards in MCD North, 70 of 104 in MCD South and 48 of 64 in MCD East, well over the halfway mark in all three. However, this was AAP’s maiden venture in the MCD polls where it picked up enough seats to push the Congress to the embarrassing third slot.

The Congress’ Delhi chief Ajay Maken has resigned, while AAP has alleged that rigged voting machines led to its rout.

“The people of Delhi have rejected negative politics, the politics of excuses,” said BJP president Amit Shah. However, the claim, made by the BJP and magnified by right-wing TV channels, that this was an aspect of the so-called Modi wave, seemed overstretched.

The fact that the BJP consecutively won the MCD twice during the Congress rule at the centre when Modi was nowhere in the scene, would suggest that there could be other factors than the prime minister’s towering presence in the party. Delhi does behave strangely at best of times.

Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit was chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms between 1998 and 2013 when Kejriwal unseated her. There was no big or small wave for the Congress, neither during the Vajpayee era, nor during Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure, when Dikshit staged a record for the capital city by ruling for 15 years without break.

However, it is a fact that the BJP has bettered last time’s performance. The MCD was split into three corporations in 2012.

Interestingly, the corporations will be full of new faces. The BJP, faced with allegations of a substandard handling of Delhi’s civic needs, had sought to beat any anti-incumbency sentiment by dropping its sitting councilors and picking new candidates in 267 of the total 272 wards.

Kejriwal has congratulated the BJP and said his “government looks forward to working with the MCDs for the betterment of Delhi.”

Several of his lieutenants, including Deputy Chief Minister Manisha Sisodia has alleged that EVMs or Electronic Voting Machines were rigged to help the BJP win the MCD elections.

“This is an EVM wave not a Modi wave,” said Delhi minister Gopal Rai.

The BJP has called AAP a poor loser. “The same EVMs gave them 67 of 70 seats in the Assembly election. That time it was fine but now you have lost, there is problem with EVMs,” said Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu.

Maken said he was quitting as the Congress’ Delhi chief and would not hold any party post for a year.

Since everyone was claiming some consolation, so did Maken.

He said the Congress was the day’s big gainer on vote share, but he had expected to do better.

Just ahead of the MCD polls some top Delhi Congress leaders quit the party and joined the BJP as a rebellion bubbled against Maken.

The BJP worked hard to win, still smarting at being reduced to just three seats in the Delhi assembly in 2015, as AAP swept 67 of the 70 seats.

In the 2014 national election, the BJP had won all seven of Delhi’s parliament seats.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2017

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