NEW DELHI: The infighting among the BJP state leaders in Delhi is likely to significantly impact the chance of the party in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections that are scheduled for 4 December.
This will be the first such election that is being held in Delhi after the erstwhile three corporations, North-South-East, were merged into one by the Union government in May and the seats reduced to 250 from the earlier 272.
Present state president Aadesh Gupta and in-charge of the party, Baijayant Panda, the two primary decision makers as far as Delhi BJP is concerned, are not on the same page on many issues. This has been attributed by party insiders to the difference of approach of the two leaders.
While Gupta takes into account local issues and decides on the basis of what will bring political benefit to him in the long run, Panda, an “outsider”, takes calls while keeping the “larger” perspective in mind, which has led to divergence of views between the two multiple times.
On top of that, both Gupta and Panda have to also take care of the egos, wishes and desires of the seven Lok Sabha MPs while formulating strategies, all of whom consider themselves as more “influential” to both of them. This has many times led to clashes of expectations and fulfilment.
Earlier last week, Gupta was forced to withdraw the appointment order of six district presidents within hours of the same being circulated through the official media channels and issue a set of fresh names. There are 14 district president posts spread across seven Lok Sabha seats.
The names were withdrawn after other stakeholders, including the seven Lok Sabha MPs, complained that they were not taken into confidence before the names were announced. The recent volte-face by Gupta, as expected, caused a lot of embarrassment for Gupta and dented his perception among the local leaders and reconfirmed that he was still to come to terms with his position. Gupta was appointed as the state president in June 2020. He was earlier the mayor of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation. According to party leaders, the calls for replacing him will get vocal if the reading among political observers, that the BJP was going to lose the MCD polls, turns into a reality.
However, Delhi BJP spokesperson Vinit Goenka told The Sunday Guardian that not much should be read into the reports of differences between party leaders. “We have a culture of discussion in which each leader and stakeholder gives his or her views on what he thinks is best for the party. No dispute is there as has been reported. We as BJP leaders are proud that we can discuss and speak our minds out at the party level, unlike what happens in AAP,” he said.
According to him, the BJP was going to win the MCD polls with a massive majority because of the work that it did during its last tenure. “I will give you just two examples. When the schools run by the AAP government threw away more than one lakh students who had failed, MCD-run schools took them in and ensured that they keep getting education despite MCD run schools not being obligated to admit them. Most of these children were from Economically Weak backgrounds. Secondly, AAP attacks us for the mounds of garbage at different dumps. The MCD’s work is to collect the garbage from the households and lanes. The garbage dumps are proof that the MCD is doing its work efficiently to keep the city clean. However, the AAP state government is not releasing the funds for compost machines that will reduce these piles of garbage,” Goenka said.
Adesh Gupta had replaced the high profile and somewhat more popular Manoj Tiwari, who, despite his popularity and an image of being the representatives of the Purvanchali voters, could not control the infighting. He too, like Gupta, faced challenges from within his own party leaders. Tiwari, an outsider, was an exception to the general rule of the BJP choosing local leaders that have roots in Delhi as their state president. He was made the state president in November 2016, replacing Satish Upadhyay.
Earlier last week, a war of words had erupted among the seven MPs and the other party leaders that comprised the 22-member state election committee on the issue of candidate selection for ticket distribution, with each leader seeking ticket for his/her supporters. The candidates for the MCD polls, following this internal squabbling, was then decided by the central leadership.
The MCD polls, which coincide with the Assembly elections in Gujarat, are being held in two phases—1 and 5 December—with the result being announced on 8 December. The timing of the local polls has forced the AAP to rewire its strategy and shift focus to Delhi, where it believes that its chances of doing well are much more than in Gujarat.