A Bumpy Ride To Delhi’s Throne
Delhi is bound for assembly elections this December in what seems like a tripartite struggle that could challenge the decade-long Congress rule in Delhi, just before the 2014 general elections. This time, the election fever is sure to reach new heights with BJP endeavouring to write a new script in the election under the able leadership of Gujarat’s maverick Narendra Modi and debutant Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) making an earnest attempt to strike a chord with the much-hassled common man. Unlike the past, Delhi’s poll issues have gone much beyond anti-incumbency, scandals, and corruptions this time, touching upon the embers of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, hollowness of pseudo-secularism, and dangers of a visionless growth plan. Despite having a wave against Congress-led UPA, Sheila Dikshit was voted back to power in 2008, providing her a third consecutive term in office. But, today her governance has come under strict criticism from all corners. The emergence of AAP and combine of BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (B) have given the voters of Delhi wider choices. It seems quite tough for Sheila Dikshit to make a historical comeback this time.
Issues like power tariff hike, unavailability of water in many pockets of Delhi, poor law and order situation, flaws in the public distribution system, non-functional schemes, and problems with the slum redevelopment legislation and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are building the election tempo in Delhi. The Food Security Bill, which was unveiled this August, was aimed at regaining the Congress’ face value. However, it does not seem to be enough to lure the middle class, which has been finding it difficult to meet the increasing daily living costs.
There is a host of daily issues that make the going tough for the Congress in this election. The Delhi government had introduced major hikes in the power tariff, antagonising the middle class all over again. Also rising prices of the vegetables have made a hole in the pockets of the common man. Host of issues that can rock the elections in Delhi are listed below.
REGULARISATION OF ILLEGAL COLONIES AND JJ CLUSTERS
Regularisation of illegal colonies has been a big issue in Delhi. Both the Congress and the BJP are promising to regularise these colonies when voted to power. Unfortunately, for the Congress, the same clusters, which it assiduously promoted over the years, have today become bastion of Aam Aadmi Party. The residents of clusters are the ones who have been hit the hardest by galloping prices and crying foul over the hike in power and water tariffs. Arvind Kejriwal, who has spoken on every issue related to these problems have been making connect with the residents of these unauthorised JJ clusters.
The BJP, which always has the support of middle and affluent class, has shifted its focus this time on these clusters. The party is focusing specially on JJ clusters, unauthorised colonies and middle and lower income groups. The party has held public meetings in almost all 70 assembly constituencies gathering huge support. The earnest with which all these parties are trying to woo this large section of voters, residing in these colonies, shows how much importance this issue assumes in the elections in Delhi.
1984 SIKH RIOTS: BLAST FROM PAST
Delhi has over 12 lakh Sikhs, of which 8 lakh are on the voter list. With the acquittal of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar in the cases related to Sikh riots of 1984, the Sikh community is feeling cheated. Earlier this year, Shiromani Akali Dal (B) swept the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections. SAD took the control of the Gurdwara management from the Congress-backed Paramjit Singh Sarna of the Delhi Akali Dal and put an end to his decade-old rule. This is termed as the precursor to the impending legislative assembly elections by the supporters of SAD (B). Whatever may be the results, it is clear that in Delhi, the ghost of 1984 riots is haunting the Congress and a lot will depend on the Sikh voters in the upcoming elections.
- Willing to listen. For the people weathered by corrupt and crooks as political leaders, Kejriwal’s responsiveness is his biggest strength.
- Focussing on local issues works in elections.
- Promises to provide an honest alternatives to both the BJP and the Congress.
- A social activist and IIT-trained mechanical engineer. He proved his mettle through a massive rally for Lokpal bill.
- Failed to conclude any movement.
- Has no political experience for contesting elections and running the government.
- Has been accused of betraying Anna Hazare.
- Trying to woo minority and attracting to vote-bank politics
- Has an image of humble and dedicated worker of the BJP.
- Started National Polio Surveillance Project to eradicate polio from the country.
- Was instrumental in formulating and implementing one of the first anti-tobacco legislations in India.
- Believes in strengthening the current system rather than bringing a new one.
- Does not have grass-roots support
- His dedicated RSS background may not cut ice with intelligensia.
- Considered too soft and gentle for hard politics.
- Has been hailed for brining “Metro” in the national capital region, making travel easy for the common man.
- Started “Ladli Scheme” for empowering the girl child, to ensure the completion of schooling for her.
- Launched “Bhagidari Scheme”, which aims at people’s participation in governance.
- Launched innovative “Saral Money Scheme”, which enables direct cash transfer to the beneficiaries having Aadhar number.
- Accused of corruption in Commonwealth Games.
- Also accused of misappropriation of funds, for promotion of herself and party. Court ordered FIR to be lodged against her.
- Severely criticised for granting parole to Manu Sharma. Delhi High Court observed that she gave preferential treatment to Sharma.
The Congress has been attacked by all parties for corruption. The BJP and AAP are accusing the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government of corruption in the Commonwealth Games. While she refutes the claims made by these parties, it is to be noted that CAG, Prime Minister-appointed Shunglu Committee and CVC had found many cases of financial bungling in the CWG projects. Sheila is also accused of corruption in PDS by the BJP. In a sting operation by a TV channel alleged diversion of wheat meant for the poor under Public Distribution System (PDS) to private flour mills was showed. The BJP had demanded resignation of Sheila Dikshit on the issue. Whatever will be the voters’ choices on the D-day, corruption will be an issue, which will be rocking this election in Delhi.
“WE WILL GET TWO-THIRD MAJORITY IN THE ELECTIONS”— Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Putting to rest the controversies related to its Chief Ministerial candidate, the BJP has finally announced Dr. Harsh Vardhan its CM candidate for Delhi. In an exclusive interview, Dr Harsh Vardhan, outlining his priorities for Delhi, assures to give a honest and transparent government to people of Delhi. He spoke candidly to Editor Deepak Kumar Rath on issues related to the upcoming elections. Excerpts:
What is your reaction on the new assignment given by the party?
I am a swayamsewak and I started my journey as a swayamsewak 20 years ago. What responsibilities the party has given to me, I have discharged them with the best of my ability and I will endeavour my best in discharging this new responsibility. The BJP has given me this responsibility. I never wished for any responsibility from my side and I feel proud of the BJP because it is the only party where an ordinary party worker can get bigger responsibility and due to this I feel proud. I assure that I will take all the party workers together to liberate Delhi from the corrupt government, which has been ruling Delhi for 15 years, so that in 2013 December election a government with good, honest and transparent government can take over. And after that we will get India rid of world’s most corrupt government. Under Narendra Modi, who is a loyal worker and has been showered with encomiums all over world for his excellent work, we will strive to make India again a Vishwa Guru.
Don’t you think it would have been more beneficial for the party, if your candidature had been announced much earlier so that you could have more time for preparations?
In a city like Delhi if you take any decision, it is known to every child within two hours. So it is not a matter of concern whether the decision was taken now or two weeks earlier. Our party’s workers work for the ideology and policies of the party. They do not work for one particular person. Party workers have been working for a long time to make party impregnable in Delhi. They are striving hard to counter anti-people policies and side by side strengthening the party foundation as well. I strongly believe that despite the late decision, which you just
mentioned, we are not going to be behind anyone.
How will you convince those people who are not happy with you?
First of all, there is no one unhappy in the party. It is a perception created by the media for some people in the party. But with the people for whom such hype is created, I share a good bond and we are working for the party with full dedication. We have strength of quality party workers, support from the Delhi people, right guidance from our national leaders and blessing of God to win this election.
During the ticket distribution what is the ratio of your and their candidates?
There are no mine or their candidates; the candidates are only of the BJP. The selection of the candidates has been done on the basis of his capability, one’s wining probability and more importantly his commitment towards the ideology of the party.
But the final list would was decided by you only since you are the party’s chief ministerial candidate?
Our party does not follow such a procedure, in which the chief ministerial candidate or state president is the final authority to choose the candidates. We have an election committee for this purpose and the members take a collective decision under Nitin Gadkari’s guidance. We sent the list to the central election committee where all the senior party leaders with our party president Rajnath Singh took the final decision.
So what was the criteria while distributing the tickets? Caste….
The main focus was on person’s loyalty, sincerity, seriousness and most importantly his commitment towards party’s ideology and his ability to win.
What would be the issues in this election campaign?
We know that this government is a complete failure on all fronts whether it be corruption, inflation, electricity, water, health, education, transport, unauthorized colonies, Yamuna, food distribution system, or environmental pollution. These are all debatable topics but what we want to do is more important. We will bring transparency in the system so that corruption could be eradicated. We are determined over the security of women. We want to turn every house in Delhi into a solar power house. Like Israel, England and many Latin American countries we want to launch universal health scheme for the people of Delhi. Likewise in education we want to improve the system; build new colleges and schools so as to provide more seats for the children and deliver a better system of education, which is our motto. As regards the youth, we will create job opportunities in Delhi itself so that one need not go to cities like Chennai or Bengaluru in search for jobs and one need not go abroad to find suitable jobs. Then there is Yamuna, our main stress would also be on cleaning Yamuna. We are determined to provide a high quality of services to people going to hospitals in Delhi–if not of international standard, it would be of the standards of a good private hospital. We will start big campaigns against diseases which can be eradicated. These all will be the agenda of this election.
What is BJP’s opinion on Shiela Dikshit’s campaign of regularising the illegal colonies?
We believe that living standards of people living in these colonies should be upgraded. These colonies should be regularised.
So, will your government regularise these colonies?
Yes, we will regularise these colonies and will try to improve their living conditions. We will try to provide health and education facilities for the people living in these colonies. We do not make hollow promises like the Congress which distributed “temporary regularisation certificates” in 2008 and made phony statements that they had got passed so many colonies. We will endeavour to construct lakhs of houses so that those living in slum colonies and government and non-government workers, who don’t have houses, may have proper housing facilities.
Recently, the BJP made an issue on the increasing tariff of electricity. What will be BJP’s stance on this issue after coming to power?
We will thoroughly get audited the accounts of these electricity providing companies. We will also bring more companies in this sector to increase competition. Besides, we will try to make people self-sufficient through the use of solar energy and for this, will also provide them with subsidy from the central government. We are focussing on all these programmes in a wider manner.
During the Congress regime, onion is being sold at Rs 80 per kg, and also several other essential commodities prices have risen up. How will you guarantee that after coming to power, you will reduce the price rise?
We will work very scientifically, incorporate new and modern ideas, visions and techniques, strengthen e-governance and through these, we will bring more transparency in the government and will try to break the nexus between government officials and hoarders. We will constitute a Food Prices Commission, in which there will be no bureaucrat, no political interference but only experts related to the field of agriculture and its allied fields. They will report to the Chief Minister. They will monitor the market and gather reports from media and according to that we will frame policies. If any shortage is there, we will try to eliminate it on a priority basis.
Will “NaMo” factor be effective in Delhi and how much?
Today, Narendra Modiji has become a great leader of this country. He is very popular in the country. Women, senior citizens, youth, everybody is influenced by his charisma. His name is known to the whole world. When is euphoria over him in the whole country, how can Delhi be left alone? He will have a huge impact over Delhi elections.
After the Narendra Modi’s rally in Delhi, how much seat will BJP get in the Assembly elections?
Nobody can do mathematical calculation as to how many seats we will get, nor can anybody predict the exact number of seats, but it is certain that we will register a great success in the elections. We will
get the two-third majority in the elections.
If the BJP wins, then as a Chief Minister what will be your dream for Delhi?
My dream is to make Delhi a beautiful capital, on which people will be proud of. Delhi has lost its credibility during the rule of this government, and we have to bring it back. My dream is to give Delhi back to its people. I dream to give Delhi a transparent, honest and people-friendly government. We will take people and experts along with us to make Delhi a better place.
Migrant population has taken over Delhi’s own population. There is a buzz around the issue of outsiders….
This is not an issue of outsiders and Delhiites. Every person living in Delhi is the citizen of India, so there is nothing like outsiders. We are Indian citizens and we will work for the uplift of everybody and protect the interests of every people.
Delhi Party President Vijay Goel was also in the race for Chief Ministership. On what conditions has he compromised? What will be his role in the elections?
I don’t have any information regarding this nor do I think that he has put any conditions. He is a great leader of our party. I have very good relation with him and being a diligent worker of the party he has accepted the decision of the party. We all accept the decision of our party and he should be congratulated for his act.
What will be his role after the government formation by the party in Delhi?
His role will be the same, as the role of a Party President. He is working very diligently. It is to be seen what role party assigns to one.
Is Arvind Kejriwal of AAP a danger for the BJP?
This is not an issue for us. Today, we have issues as to how to make Delhi a better place and what we can do for the people of Delhi. Whatever we have to do for the betterment of Delhi is in our minds.
It seems that history might just repeat itself. Onions had brought tears for the BJP government in Delhi in1998 assembly elections and it has the potential to do the same for the Congress government in Delhi in 2013. Galloping onion prices are becoming a major issue ahead of the Delhi elections. Onion is a common item in the daily diet of the common man and its spiralling prices may have repercussions for the Sheila Dikshit government. For the last few days, onion prices have been hanging between Rs 80 and Rs 100 a kilo, which has dented the common man’s food plate. While rising prices of onions had routed the doom of the then BJP government in 1998, it is to be seen what it holds for the present Congress government in its sack in this election. in fact, it is just not onions but all the vegetables, including potatos, whose ever-rising prices have hit the middle class.
HIKE IN POWER TARIFFS
With Delhi government hiking the power tariffs by 5 per cent in last July, it has become a poll plank for AAP and the BJP. Since then both parties have been trying to woo voters-consumers with the promise of slashed electricity prices and accountability from the private companies. Power cuts and prices have become an indispensible part of all election speeches and manifestos. The Congress government’s claims about reforms in the power sector and the prices being lower than most other metros are barely resonating with the public. AAP and the BJP both are promising of slashing the bills by 50 and 30 per cent respectively. While both AAP and the BJP are blazing their guns on the current government, it is interesting to note that in a survey conducted by AAP, only 5 per cent of people expressed concern over the raised power tariff.
With many pre-poll surveys predicting hung assembly in Delhi, some are giving BJP a winning hand, while some other are making AAP as kingmaker. Undoubtedly, it is getting very clear that India’s national capital would witness a three-cornered fight for the first time in its history. While all parties are trying their level best to woo the voters, the winner will be the one who will capitalise on these issues. Let us wait for this December to unwind the questions. But whatever the answer is, this show will go on!
By Nilabh Krishna