Delhi: Local bodies’ elections
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Seats reserved for SCs, women/ 2017
Of 272 Seats Across 3 Corpns, 46 Marked For SC & 114 For Women Candidates
Setting the tone for municipal polls in April, the state election commission (SEC) on notified the reservation of seats for women and schedule caste candidates across the 272 wards. This has paved the way for pre-election work to be carried out by SEC in consultation with the three corporations.
The scheduled caste seats were reserved based on the SC population in a ward. “For instance, under North Delhi Municipal Corporation 19.38% of the total population comprises scheduled castes.So, out of 104 seats 20 have been reserved for SC candidates. From the 20 reserved seats, 10 are for women SC candidates. The remaining 84 seats have been divided equally between women and general candidates,“ said a senior SEC official.
Out of the total 272 seats across the three corporations, 46 have been reserved for SC candidates -20 under north corporation, 15 under south corporation and 11 under east corporation. Of the remaining 226 seats, 114 have been reserved for women candidates.
While odd numbered se ats are reserved for women candidates, the even ones are for general candidates.“50% of the total SC seats are reserved for women. The same applied to seats in the general category ,“ said the senior official.
The municipal polls are significant this time as a ma jor third party , AAP, will be contesting for the first time.While the ruling BJP will be fighting to retain its turf, Congress is making a bid to regain lost ground.
After the delimitation work was officially notified in January , it changed the contours and population of municipal wards. Though the total number of municipal wards remains at 272, there is a major change from the current configuration of four wards per assembly constituency to three in many , and seven in one. The average population of each ward has been revised to 60,000 vo ters based on the 2011 census.
Sources in the corporations claimed that the configuration of the new wards after delimitation will impact ticket allocation. Political parties will face a major challenge in the constituencies where the number of wards has gone down from existing four to three as they will have to reorganise their entire block-wise structure.
“This may not go down well with the political parties as they will have to give multiple tickets to SCST candidates in a particular constituency . In some, the number of seats for SCST candidates may remain just one,“ sources said.
The SEC will now have to complete reassigning of polling booths along with demarcation of new boundaries in consultation with the three corporations.
“By next week, we will assign returning officers (RO) for mapping of polling booths. Post delimitation, many polling booths have shifted to a new ward. The work of reassigning polling booths will take nearly four weeks. Simultaneously , ROs will also inform the residents about the newlyassigned polling stations of their wards,“ added the senior official.
The impact of the 2017 reservation on incumbents
Many big guns turned big losers with the notification of the list of reserved wards on Wednesday .While many of the BJP and Congress stalwarts will be barred from contesting from their strongholds, all seven seats belonging to AAP are out of the reservation list.
Former Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay , councillor of Malviya Nagar, and Safdarjang Enclave's Shailendra Singh Monty will not be able to seek re-election from their current wards as both have been reserved for women. A popular BJP face in the south corporation, Monty claimed he had worked hard to make his ward a better place. Former north corporation mayor Ravindra Gupta's seat, Karol Bagh, and Yogendra Chandolia's Dev Nagar have also met with a similar fate. The former leader of house in the east corporation, B B Tyagi, also can't contest from Kishan Kunj.
The councillors affected by reservation are struggling to figure out their next move. “I am in no mood to contest from another seat, but nobody can defeat BJP here,“ Monty told TOI.
The disappointment extended to the Congress camp as well. Nizamuddin, the ward of Farhad Suri, leader of opposition at the south corporation, has been reserved for women. Suri, also a former mayor, said he might contest from another ward.In the north corporation, wards such as Rani Bagh and Kishan Ganj have been affected, said leader of opposition Mukesh Kumar Goel.
Though hit less than BJP, Congress is also unhappy .“The election commission did not accommodate our suggestions for reservation,“ said Goel. However, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said, “We accept the list and have requested party leaders to find suitable candidates.“ BJP's Ashish Sood said the reservation had comprehensively covered scheduled castes.
Seat change is often not easy for big guns with most banking on personality-based polling in their wards.“Base change creates a lot of bad blood because every seat has strong ticket seekers,“ said a BJP functionary . Powerful male councillors often field women family members to beat the reservation list.
Sources said some of the big leaders might contest from newly created wards in the neighbourhood. While Congress is confi dent about winning the civic polls after 10 years, the ruling BJP hopes to counter the anti-incumbency factor. BJP MLA Vijender Gupta, who was overseeing the delimitation exercise for the party , said it would gain from delimitation as Outer Delhi, where BJP had fared well during the 2013 assembly polls, had seen a sizeable increase in the number of wards.
AAP, which considers the civic polls crucial, is likely to focus on youths. Promising not to field any `dummy' candidate in the women seats, a party member said, “Seats for women were reserved to aid in their empowerment.“
2017: Congress wins NDMC’s Sadar Paharganj zone
Not having enough numbers didn't stop two Congress candidates from being elected to crucial posts in North Delhi Municipal Corporation's Sadar Paharganj zone.
Congress councillors Usha Sharma and Prerna Singh were elected as deputy chairman and standing committee member, respectively, with nine votes each.A third candidate of the party, Alley Mohammad, lost to an AAP corporator as, sources said, a consensus couldn't be reached.
The zone has 13 wards and 17 members--eight belonging to AAP (including four aldermen), six to Congress and three to BJP . All three parties fielded candidates for three posts.
For the post of chairperson of zonal committee, Babita from AAP , Alley Mohammad Iqbal from Congress and Avtar Singh from BJP were in fray . Of 17 votes polled, eight went to Babita, six to Iqbal and three to Singh. Since nobody touched the winning mark of nine votes, another poll had to be conducted after removing the candidate with the least number of votes.
In the second poll, Babita again got eight votes and Iqbal six as BJP councillors abstained from voting. AAP alleged that BJP councillors abstained from voting as the Congress candidate was a Muslim.
In the elections to the post of deputy chairman and standing committee member, BJP's Ravinder Kumar withdrew his nominations from both posts. For the first one, the contest was between Usha Sharma of Congress and Mohammad Sadiq of AAP . Congress had only six votes but Sharma got nine votes, thereby trumping Sadiq.
For the post of standing committee member, Congress's Prerna Singh contested against AAP's Rakesh Kumar, who is also the leader of the opposition in the House. Singh, too, got nine votes.
AAP claimed BJP members had voted for Congress as in both elections its own candidates received eight votes. “Congress's candida te would have won the election for the seat of chairperson also, but he didn't get BJP votes for being a Muslim. BJP is hand in glove with Congress in the corporation,“ AAP's Kumar said, adding that there was no cross-voting from AAP .
Kumar also claimed that the “union of BJP and Congress“ would weaken the opposition in the corporation and important issues would be delayed or not taken up altogether. “It will also lead to corruption,“ he said.
Congress rubbished claims of an accord with BJP .“If we did, we would have won the election for the post of chairperson too,“ said Mukesh Goel of Congress.
Goel said there was secret voting so it wasn't possible to know who voted for whom.“May be AAP councillors also voted for us,“ he said.
A BJP member, however, said the party didn't want an AAP member in the standing committee.
2007, 2017: low in upscale South Delhi
Low Turnout May Be Sign Of Disillusionment With Parties
It is a paradox: the affluent residential colonies that are more robustly covered by the RWA system are often the least interested in casting votes for the municipal corporations. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that residents of these colonies have the wherewithal to deal with civic problems even if the corporations ignore their complaints. In 2012, the burgeoning RWA movement had created a lot of interest in the civic bodies, and yet the turnout in these areas had been just around 45%. With the unusually hot weather and a general disillusionment with political parties, it would be interesting to watch the turnout in these areas.
The voting percentage in the byelection for the Rajouri Garden assembly seat was 47%. That, however, can be attributed to a general trend in byelections. Wing Commander JS Chaddha (retd), who heads the RWA in East of Kailash and is the convenor of URJA (United Residents Joint Action), however, has doubts if the voters from the affluent colonies will turn up at the polling booths on Sunday .“The problem is not about awareness but about the high level of frustration with the system,“ he said. Chetan Sharma, chair man of the Federation of GK2 RWAs, pointed out that in 2012 when the RWA movement was at a peak, the urban colonies had voted in greater numbers than earlier. Despite this, the turnout was less than 50%. “The RWA movement has since got watered down, so it will definitely have an effect on this year's turnout,“ he said. He also attributed the lack of voter interest to the reluctance of the state election commission to involve the RWAs and citizen groups in election-related activities this time. The delimitation exerci se, by geographically balancing the urban-rural presence in the wards, has further diluted the political relevance of votes from upscale colonies. Meena Gangahar, member of the Greater Kailash RWA, argued that the politicians considered jhuggi-jhopdi dwellers and urban villages as their vote banks. “Our ward now has many JJ colonies and villages included in it. Their population provides the politicians with a reliable vote bank,“ she said. “Why should we vote for leaders who will have nothing to do with our concerns?“ Indeed, in 2012, the east Delhi region largely made up of unauthorised or regularised colonies and urban villages recorded the highest turnout. South Delhi, home to high-profile addresses, recorded the least. Perhaps the apathy also has to do with residents of affluent areas having access to power centres as well as the financial muscle to solve their problems with or without the intervention of their municipal councillor.
“People in the richer areas live in gated apartments where they have power backup and private workers ensuring sanitary conditions.This parallel civic system is available to them,“ explained BS Vohra, president of the East Delhi RWA Joint Front, who reiterated that turnout in the posher areas would be less than earlier this year.
Responding to the RWAs' criticisms, Delhi State Election Commissioner SK Srivastava said that the commission “had written to the RWAs that if they wished to, they could participate in helping the election commission staff in organising the polling“. The commission had even nominated staff to help RWAs disseminate information about the polling booths and election-related questions, he added.
Bypolls: AAP wins 4 of 5 wards, Congress 1
Just over a year before the corporation elections in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party has won four out of the five seats in byelections. But the party had a setback in Muslim-dominated Chauhan Banger ward in east Delhi which was wrested from it by Congress. BJP drew a blank, losing its stronghold of Shalimar Bagh (North) in the process.
The bypolls for two wards under the north and three under the east corporation were held on Sunday with over 1.2 lakh people exercising their franchise with a voter turnout of 50.8%.
The AAP candidates retained Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri seats in east Delhi with comfortable margins. The party also won Rohini-C ward where BSP councillor, Jai Bhagwan, switched to AAP and got elected as an MLA in 2020 assembly polls. The AAP candidate in Rohini-C, Ram Chander, managed to defeat his BJP rival, Rakesh, by 2,985 votes as the former councillor was able to claim BSP votes.
Preview To The Big Fight: AAP Sees Its Vote Share Go Up In Four Of Five Wards
The results in Shalimar Bagh (North) and Chauhan Banger were complete reversals in comparison to the 2017 municipal elections. The AAP candidate, Sunita Mishra, won the Shalimar Bagh (North) ward with a lead of 2,705 votes over the BJP candidate, Surbhi Jaju. Traditionally considered to be a safe seat for BJP, with three successive wins, the seat had fallen vacant when BJP councillor Renu Jaju passed away. In the 2017 municipal elections, Jaju had defeated Mishra by 3,367 votes. BJP decided to field her daughter-in-law, Surbhi Jaju, on this seat which is reserved for women but the party failed to repeat its performance. The ward is dominated by Punjabi and Vaishya communities which seem to have opted for AAP in this election with the AAP vote share going up from 31.1% in 2017 to 50.3% now.
In east Delhi, the Chauhan Banger seat, earlier held by AAP, has been won by Congress candidate Chaudhary Zubair Ahmad. Ahmad received over 73.8% of the 21,968 votes cast in the ward while the vote share of AAP dropped by more than 20% when compared to the last elections. BJP received just 105 out of 21,968 valid votes. A Muslim-dominated ward, the Chauhan Banger seat had been won by AAP’s Abdul Rehman by a margin of 2,342 votes over his rival Congress candidate in 2017. The seat fell vacant when Rehman successfully contested the 2020 assembly election and got elected as a member of the legislative assembly.
Dhirender Kumar of AAP won the Kalyanpuri ward by a margin of 7,043 votes while party nominee Vijay Kumar won from Trilokpuri, defeating BJP’s Om Prakash by a margin of 4,986 votes. Both seats were won by AAP in 2017 and the councillors — Kuldeep Kumar and Rohit Kumar, respectively — were later elected as MLAs. While BJP has lost the Trilokpuri ward, its vote share has gone up by 10% in the reserved seat which is dominated by resettlement colonies and JJ clusters with a large chunk of population from the scheduled castes and of Rajasthani and Garhwali origins.
Analysis of the vote percentages across the five wards shows AAP’s vote share has gone up in each of the wards except in Chauhan Banger while in case of Congress, the reverse holds true. BJP, which will be facing anti-incumbency in next year’s municipal elections, has increased its vote share by 10% in two wards — Rohini-C and Trilokpuri.
Besides the three key parties, smaller parties and independents have found it tougher to garner votes. Their share of votes is significantly down with BSP getting only 3,083 votes and all independents getting just 2,017 votes across all five wards. As a result, the overall shares of each of the three major parties have risen, hugely in AAP’s case. Seven-hundredand-seventy-six (0.63%) voters pressed the NOTA button, rejecting all the candidates.
Notwithstanding the small scale of the municipal byelections, the poll pitch was set very high. Politicians described it as a semi-final before the main civic polls. It was the first election after communal riots tore through northeast Delhi early last year. AAP pitched the byelection as a referendum on the performance of BJP in the corporations.
None of the three main political parties spared any effort in preparing for the polls and carrying out campaigning. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal campaigned for his party while BJP fielded some of its senior leaders like Bhupendra Yadav, Delhi unit chief Adesh Gupta and MP Manoj Tiwari. Congress also put its weight behind the party candidates with its senior functionaries undertaking canvassing.
In the Chauhan Banger ward, Congress had fielded its leader and former MLA Mateen Ahmad’s son, Zubair Ahmad. AAP functionary Durgesh Pathak said Ahmad got sympathy votes because his father was losing the election for the past two times and there were some local ward level issues.
BJP Delhi chief Adesh Gupta said the party will introspect on the losses. Congress is likely to contest the 2022 civic polls with renewed vigour, hoping to capitalise on this victory.