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MCD Election 2017: It's turning out to be referendum on Arvind Kejriwal rather than a vote on BJP's performance

The election to the municipal corporations in Delhi should be about the performance of the incumbent party in the civic bodies, right? The BJP heads all three corporations and during election time it should be facing tough questions about the generally awful civic affairs in the capital state. Interestingly, it's the Arvind Kejriwal-led state government that is facing all the heat.

The MCD election is gradually taking shape of a referendum on the two-years-old Aam Aadmi Party government rather than a test of popular approval for the BJP which has been in power in the corporations far longer. Both the Congress and the BJP have been busy attacking the AAP government. The Shunglu Committee report, which finds several lapses in the conduct of the government, has provided them fresh ammo.

The findings of the committee — it was set up in 2016 by former Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to look into several decisions taken by the government after it assumed power — has little positive for a party planning to make a big bang entry in the MCDs. From appointments to residential accommodation to salaries to hand-picked people, the panel finds irregularities in the 404 files it studied. No matter which course the findings take later on, they will impact the AAP's prospects in the local elections.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

How? The findings take the sheen off the party which never stops claiming it is different from others, particularly in the area of corruption. The opposition is certain to take it to people aggressively even if it has little to do with civic affairs. The aim would be to damage whatever positive perception the party has left among masses. The AAP will be too engaged clarifying its position on the allegations to launch its own assault on the BJP.

Looking at it objectively, the AAP has nothing much to lose in the MCD elections. It's making its debut this time and whatever seats it gets would count as gain for the party. If its win at least one of the three MCDs, it would be a bonus. According to poll watchers, East Delhi Corporation could land in AAP's bag if it campaigns right. However, a poor performance would mean it has made no actual gains in terms of popularity in Delhi. The massive assembly election victory two years ago - it won 67 of the state's 70 assembly seats - was a flash in the pan.

It would also mean Arvind Kejriwal is no more the strong emerging political force he was made out to be. Now that the civic body election is turning out to be a referendum on his government, by implication it means it is a referendum on Kejriwal. Any honest assessment of him would reveal that he has only managed to send confusing signals about himself ever since he took over power, most of it negative. Once a hero of the middle class and the underclass, it's not clear who he represents now. While a few of his measures such as mohalla clinics and efforts to revamp school education have been appreciated, it is not clear where he stands as a political idealist or grassroots reformer. His compulsive obsessive Twitter attacks on Naredra Modi, many times without rhyme or reason, surely has not won him many friends.

The MCD election would be a reality check for him and his party. If he wins handsomely, it would be clear that both have entrenched themselves in Delhi's politics and the BJP and the Congress can no more treat them as political upstarts. If they lose, then it's a spiral downward. The government would still be there for two more years but it would remain without any moral justification for being there.

Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 15:18 PM

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