The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to not repeat even a single councillor in the next month’s elections for three municipal corporations of Delhi may have brought glee to Opposition ranks. Aam Aadmi Party and Congress may find this comforting since BJP could well face the possibility of rebel candidates cutting into its votes in many of the 138 wards where the party had won municipal elections last time these polls were held in 2012.
Yet, the BJP’s move is not without strategic planning. The new gameplan of the BJP is aimed at not only countering a decade-long anti-incumbency as it has been controlling the local municipal bodies in the Capital since 2007, but also to turn the April 23 polls for 272 wards into multi-polar contests.
This plan has reportedly been opted for after an internal survey of the BJP brought forth the possibility that nearly 70% of its municipal councillors may not be able to get reelected this time.
Buoyant after its spectacular victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the party has come to like the idea of ensuring multi-cornered contests in which smaller parties, independents and leaders of various social groups too vie to make their mark.
Delhi municipal polls have already been betraying signs of this with the entry of Swaraj Party led by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who are staunch opponents of AAP ever since the two fell out with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Thus, clearing BJP stables and letting loose all or many of its 138 previous winners to make a beeline for nomination to parties like Bahujan Samaj Party, Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and even the Rashtriya Lok Dal besides Congress and AAP is smart strategy.
What’s more, BJP can always co-opt party rebels post-election in case any of them win either as an Independent or as candidate of smaller parties.
The more the contestants, the better it is for the BJP. This is so because in the recently held UP assembly polls, the party had the benefit of multiple candidates joining the fray from varied parties like Peace Party, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Nishad Party, Apna Dal (S), and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party to mention a few. The last two of them could reap a rich harvest of Vidhan Sabha seats with the support of the BJP, while the others could add to the weight of the BJP-led NDA’s votes by cornering a few thousand votes of social groups opposed to the BJP.
BJP in a tactical move installed Bhojpuri singer and it’s North-East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari as its Delhi president to woo Poorvanchalis (people from Eastern UP and Bihar), while among Punjabi settlers it has traditionally enjoyed wide support. Delhi has been a BJP stronghold for the past several years and is backed by a strong cadre. And it is determined to avenge the humiliating defeat in the Delhi assembly election in 2015 when it could win only three of the 70 seats.
That is the reason why the BJP has pulled out all the stops and the MCD election may look like an assembly election.