BJP to field 7 CMs as star campaigners in MCD polls, Congress & AAP scoff
After its landslide victories in the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now turned its attention to the upcoming Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections.
The BJP has been in power in the MCD for the last 10 years, and wants to leave no stone unturned in a bid to retain its hold and fend off the challenge of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, which runs the government of Delhi.
Seven BJP chief ministers – Yogi Adityanath (UP), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (MP), Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra) and Sarbananda Sonowal (Assam) – have been roped in to campaign in Delhi. Fourteen Union ministers will also campaign for the party in the national capital.
Moreover, the party has appointed Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sanjeev Balyan, and senior party functionaries Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Shyam Jaju to supervise the polls, which are to be held on 23 April. The elections were supposed to be held on 22 April, but were postponed due to board examinations. Even the date of counting has been shifted from 25 to 26 April.
The MCD is trifurcated into three distinct entities – the North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations. The total ward strength is 272 (104 each in North and South, and 64 in East), of which the BJP had won 153 in the last polls in 2012.
The nomination process for the elections has begun from 27 March, and the last date of filing nominations is 3 April. The total number of registered voters for the municipal polls is 1,32,10,206, of which 73,15,915 are men and 58,93,418 women. For the first time, there will also be 793 registered voters in the 'other' gender category.
Congress slams BJP strategy
The Congress slammed the BJP for roping in so many chief ministers and Union ministers for a municipal election campaign, and said it reflected the nervousness of the party.
“Local body polls are fought on grassroots issues. If the BJP wants to fight these elections on the popularity of the Prime Minister and chief ministers, it reflects on the bankruptcy of the ruling party. It also shows their lack of strength at the grassroots, and how their local leadership is worth nothing. For us, it is psychologically reassuring that BJP has failed in building its organisation, and now depends on star campaigners to help win elections,” Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said.
She went on to point out that despite the much-touted Modi wave across the country, the BJP had managed to win only three of the 70 Assembly seats in the 2015 Assembly elections. The AAP had won the other 67 seats, while the Congress had failed to break the duck.
Mukherjee, daughter of President Pranab Mukherjee, went on to add that the Congress will fight the elections on the development agenda, and is not into making tall promises which can't be fulfilled.
“We are talking about making MCD self-reliant, and offering pragmatic solutions. We are talking about clean air, solid waste management, primary health and education, among other issues. Unlike the BJP, we do not depend on star campaigners to do wonders for us,” she added.
However, despite these claims, the Congress has roped in Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to campaign for the MCD elections.
AAP not worried
AAP, too, claimed that the list of BJP's star campaigners exhibits desperation and nervousness on its part.
“BJP should remember what happened in 2015. Back then, it had star campaigners. And yet, it lost so badly. Delhi is different, which it proved in 2015 when we won the polls despite the Modi wave,” AAP leader Ashutosh said.
Asked if AAP was worried about these star campaigners, Ashutosh said his party was not bothered. “It is because they know that they are going to lose. The work we have done speaks volumes about what we are capable of,” he added.
AAP, too, has finalised its list of star campaigners and their schedule. The party maintained that it will fight these elections on local issues, with leaders from the national capital campaigning for the party. As expected, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh will try and woo the masses.
Polls with national significance
When confronted with the allegations made by the Congress and AAP, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal laughed and said: “They need to have star campaigners to field. Whatever AAP has is from Delhi. The Congress has no one. AAP will field Arvind Kejriwal and Congress can't even field Rahul Gandhi, because they know if they do, they are finished.”
Mittal claimed that the impact of any polls in Delhi have a national significance, and in order to win elections, the party will use any weapon it has in its arsenal.
“Delhi has a sizable population of Poorvanchalis, and Yogi Adityanath is their hero, so why shouldn't we use him? Similarly, all the other chief ministers have appeal in different areas. Our motive is to win, and if we have such tall and popular leaders, why shouldn't we use them?” he asked.