Millennium Post

Delhi may set a new trend

Today morning as the national Capital goes to polls to elect its fifth legislative assembly under the National Capital Territory Act of 1993, many among us who have keenly followed the campaign will not be voting. Delhi has a poor reputation in the matter of voter turnout and hopefully this time around it keeps up with other states going to the polls, which all have seen high voter turnout.

Some of us who would not be voting are those who have been forced to look for home and hearth in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. This grim situation has been best portrayed by the fact that a resident of Kaushambi colony of Ghaziabad, situated bang on Delhi-UP border, is leading the newest entrant in Delhi politics – the Aam Admi Party. Incidentally all the prominent leaders of the Aam Admi Party – Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas and Prashant Bhushan are residents of Uttar Pradesh. However, that doesn’t make them ineligible from practising politics in Delhi as at least three of them have had their ‘karmabhoomi’ in the national Capital. There are several like these AAP leaders, including your reporter, who despite not being a voter in the national Capital take keen interest in the city’s politics as their livelihood opportunities are closely linked to the policies which the government of the national Capital follows. Thus the campaign portrayed in the media and the actual support for the political parties in the national Capital is always at variance. The reason for it is not far to seek – there are those whose name figure in the voter list of  Delhi, whereas there are others who work in Delhi, have an opinion on Delhi government but are not a voter in Delhi.

One of the major social changes witnessed in the Capital in the past 10 years or so has been the rise of the middle class employed in the corporate sector. However, just a porti on of this new social class gets reflected in the voter list of the national Capital. According to rough estimates nearly two-third of this new social class have shifted base to the suburbs of Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gurgaon.
They have to an extent, especially in the satellite towns of UP, substantially helped change the demographic profile of voters list in these areas. However, their influence on the politics of the national Capital remains to an extent ‘virtual’ than ‘actual’.

Thus in the polls for which votes would be cast today, some of the conventional factors of caste and community identity would play an important role. The regional identity especially those related to the migrant population, which dominate the 1600-odd unauthorised colonies, would be crucial in deciding who would be the winner.

And of course there would be the government employees living in the sarkari colonies, to whom the issues like government rate of dearness allowance, interest on provident fund and age of superannuation, would matter much more than any other factor. However, there is one factor, which has caused concern to the voters across the caste, community and regional lines and that is inflation and high prices of essential food items like the vegetables.

Having discussed the nuances of the voting and also profile of the voter in the national Capital, it was time to analyse the likely performance of various political parties in fray. On the surface, the BJP seems to be far ahead of the Congress in the matter of campaign. Ever since the announcement of the name of Dr Harshvardhan as party’s chief ministerial candidate, BJP has presented a unified front with senior party leaders like Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley pitching in with quality campaign.
The rallies organised for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi have been fairly successful in energising the long dormant party cadres in the capital city. The BJP has certainly been able to firm up its position as a major political force in the city with a rekindled desire to govern the city.

On the other hand, incumbent chief minister Sheila Dikshit has been ploughing a lone furrow for the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi addressed a dismal rally and Sonia Gandhi put up an average show. Insiders say that the Congress campaign has been designed this way as they appreciate the fact that there is not much ‘popular’ support for the party. The Congress this time around is banking on the ‘equation’ of its long-serving MLAs with the voters. This is a huge gamble. This could end up being the third level of anti-incumbency leading to the rout of the party. The other two levels of anti-incumbency are those against the central and state governments. ‘Equation’ of MLAs with voters, however, as Dikshit too expects, could well neutralise the adverse effect of the anti-incumbency at the two upper levels. On the sheer strength of her MLAs, Dikshit may well end up writing a new script of waging a successful political battle. In several other states, including Narendra Modi in Gujarat, fearing anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs replaced nearly half of them in the last assembly polls. The new faces in Gujarat’s case acted as force multiplier adding strength to the charisma of Narendra Modi.
In Delhi’s case it could just be that the old faces of sitting MLAs prove to be the shock absorbers against the adverse fallout of the policies of central and the state governments, especially in the matters of corruption and price rise.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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