Reunification of Delhi's civic bodies: New BJP gambit to corner Kejriwal, writes Sayantan Ghosh

Sayantan GhoshUpdated: Wednesday, April 06, 2022, 08:29 AM IST
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Arvind Kejriwal | PTI

Last week Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled a bill in the Lok Sabha to reunify three municipal corporations of Delhi. The move came at a time when the state election commission was about to announce the MCD elections.

The election got postponed indefinitely due to this bill. As far as this bill is concerned, the BJP is clearly trying to restrict Arvind Kejriwal to only the Delhi government.

After the unification of the three municipal corporations of Delhi,the mayor's post will become significantly powerful in the national capital. For more than the past 15 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been ruling the MCDs.

However, BJP has hardly ever talked about the reunification of the three civic bodies before this. Earlier, Delhi had just one MCD. But in 2012, Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit decided to divide the MCDs into north, south, and east. Political observers believe that this trifurcation of the MCD was done to weaken the BJP.

However, in reality, the opposite happened. Delhi is the national capital of India and is not a full state but a union territory. That means here the administrative power is trifurcated.

In Delhi law and order, land, and bureaucracy comes under the central government. Education, health, transport, water, and other issues come under the state government while sanitation, road infrastructure, and several other urban issues comeunderMCDs. In Delhi,the politics have been very peculiar. The same voters who vote for Arvind Kejriwal when it comes to the assembly elections do not vote for the AAP when it comes to Lok Sabha elections or municipal corporation elections. All the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi are with the BJP.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party knows that to combat Arvind Kejriwal they will now need a strong face who will have both political and administrative power. The trifurcated MCDs have three mayors, three commissioners around 66 heads of the department, and numerous officials. With the unification of the three civic bodies, the Bharatiya Janata Party is eyeing to create a shadow chief minister through the post of the mayor.

This person will have both political and administrative power. However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will remain the most powerful elected representative of the national capital but the post of mayor will also have somewhat equal power in the state. The allegations of corruption have always been very common against the BJP ruled MCD. For the past two years, the Aam Aadmi Party has been campaigning against the BJP on the issue of corruption.

According to media reports in the recently done internal survey, the BJP found that Kejriwal’s party has an edge over them if the election happens in the current situation.Themunicipal corporations of Delhiface a massive financial crunch every year.

The Aam Aadmi Party claims that this fund crunch is due to the corruption of the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, the BJP claims that the Aam Aadmi Party government does not provide funds to the civic bodies which lead to this crisis. Significantly during the tabling of the Bill in the Lok Sabha Union Home Minister Amit Shah also said that the Arvind Kejriwal government has been showing a “stepmotherly” attitude towards the MCDs.

In Delhi, the BJP ruling the central government has always been at the loggerhead with the Aam Aadmi Party government. On several issues, the BJP has tried to corner the Delhi Chief Minister through their administrative power. Earlier, on several issues, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi used to interfere with the works of the state government. But after the historic and landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, this interference of the Lieutenant Governor has gone down.

But, the Aam Aadmi Party keeps alleging that in some way or the other the BJP ruled central government tries to stall several welfare projects of the Arvind Kejriwal government. For example, recently the central government has stalled the doorstep delivery of the ration scheme proposed by the Arvind Kejriwal government.

Under the leadership of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal,the Aam Aadmi Party has achieved a landslide victory in the recently held Punjab election. Right now, Kejriwal's party has a government in two major states in the Hindi heartland. Nevertheless, in terms of political and administrative power senior Aam AadmiParty leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is now more powerful than Kejriwal.

And the BJP wants to corner him by restricting him to the Delhi government only. Recently, the Delhi Chief Minister launched an attack on the Bharatiya JanataParty inside theDelhi assembly. He also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party is scared of the Aam Aadmi Party and of losing in Delhi civic polls.

The tussle between Arvind Kejriwal and the Bharatiya Janata Party is increasing and will increase in the upcoming days too. The reason behind this is Kejriwal’s ambition to expand to other states. Until now,the Aam Aadmi Party has only got into the votes of the Congress party or other opposition parties like Shiromani Akali Dal.

But in the upcoming state elections,the key contender of the Aam Aadmi Party will be the Bharatiya Janata Party and the leadership of the saffron party does not want Kejriwal to cut into their votes.

(The author is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at Delhi Assembly Research Center. He tweets as @sayantan_gh. Views expressed are entirely personal)

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