The byelections to 13 vacant wards of three MCDs (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) will be held on 15 May and the results will be out on 17 May. The 13 wards became vacant after the then sitting councillors contested the Delhi Assembly elections and got elected as MLAs.
The byelections are being viewed seriously by all the major parties—AAP, BJP and Congress—who consider it to be a “semi-final” before the MCD elections next year. For the first time, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the race for the MCDs.
Voters of Munirka (ward number 166) seem to be happy that at least the candidates for the ward from AAP, Congress, and BJP are residents of their area. Naveen Kumar, an advocate, said, “Most issues here have been solved by Pramila Tokas, our MLA from AAP. The few issues that remain relate to parking and repair of roads.”
However, Gyandev Gupta, another resident of Munirka village, said: “The sewage system, water supply and roads are all in a bad shape. During the monsoon, this area gets waterlogged and mosquitoes breed.” Gupta lashed out at the AAP, calling it a “nautanki” (drama) party.
Lack of cleanliness is a major problem that residents in Ballimaran (ward number 86) face. It is an important ward in North MCD due to the fact that Imran Hussain, a heavyweight AAP minister (Food, Supplies & Environment), belongs to this area. “Garbage free roads and sideways as well as clean market areas are among the top demands of the people here. Things get worse after rains,” said Haroon, a shopkeeper.
“Many senior citizens reside in this area. So a fair distribution of pension is a concern for them. But I have never known this procedure to be entirely corruption free. Even though the AAP has a better image than others in this regard, I have heard some allegations against them as well,” said Ahmad (name changed), a former government employee.
Mohammad Sadiq, AAP candidate from Ballimaran, showed confidence in the work done by his predecessor, then councillor and now MLA Imran Hussain, who is his brother-in-law. “Relief from exorbitantly high electricity and water bills have won the hearts of Delhiites. Hussain is widely known and respected here. I know people will keep supporting us as they can now reach their councillors anytime they want,” Sadiq said.
On the other hand, Susheel Sharma, Ballimaran BJP Mandal president, said, “The AAP says they have a ‘clean’ image, but look at their tactics. People are questioning why the ‘mohalla clinics’ were opened in the houses of their party workers.”
A Congress party worker in Ballimaran, who did not want to be identified, slammed the AAP and said, “The MLA on whose ‘image’ they are depending, is not clean either. There are cases pending against the MLA’s brother as well.”
The AAP, however, blamed the BJP for stalling all developmental works pertaining to the MCD. Anil Malik, AAP candidate from the Nanakpura ward (number 168) of South MCD, said, “The Delhi government has been regularly providing the MCDs with funds, but the BJP has been diverting these to buy cars and refurnish offices.”
Most voters from one of the Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) clusters in Nanakpura seemed to be happy with the AAP’s work. Rama Devi, a resident, said, “Since the AAP came to power, our water problem has been solved. Now, we get water for over eight hours a day. Roads have also been made and toilets have been constructed. Moreover, nobody harasses us anymore. Our vote will go for jhaadu (broom), the AAP election symbol. Our only problem is of garbage and sewage lines and we are requesting the candidates to help us.”
However, Nitin Sharma, the BJP candidate from Nanakpura, counters this. He said. “It is the BJP that has made toilets and installed street lights.”
Inder Kumar, a tea-stall owner in Jhilmil from East MCD, said, “If the AAP doesn’t come good on its promises, we will consider the Congress in a favourable light. Jhilmil has always been a Congress stronghold and there are good chances that the party will be back again.”
Vinod Kumar Binny, an AAP rebel, is contesting the byelections on a BJP ticket from the Khichripur ward number 214 in East MCD. He lashed out at the AAP for playing the politics of “lies” and “deceit”. “I have always been in public life to serve the people and I will continue to do so. This time, the BJP has given me an opportunity to be among the people again and I would try to solve their problems,” Binny said.
The BJP attacked the AAP government in Delhi for the lack of funds in the MCDs, resulting in stoppage of old-age pension. Anita Gupta, a former BJP councillor, said, “The AAP is playing politics even with old people. They had reduced the MCD funds to portray us in bad light, but we will expose them. The MCDs don’t have much of their own funds, and have to rely on the Delhi government for funds. People will have the last laugh when the results for all the three MCDs are out on 17 May.”