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Mass contact, star campaigners — BJP ups the ante as internal evaluation shows MCD vote shortfall

Ahead of next month's high-pitched civic poll battle between BJP & AAP, former's internal survey has indicated it is likely to get 120 of 250 seats, less than required majority of 126, it is learnt.

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 New Delhi: An internal assessment conducted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has indicated a possible reversal in its fortune in next month’s Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) election, ThePrint has learnt, prompting the party to give a greater push to its campaigning. Party leaders have been asked by the BJP high command to hit the ground running as part of a mass-contact campaign Sunday.

The BJP has been in power in the MCD since 2007. This includes its rule over three separate corporations — the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) — into which the civic body was split between 2012 and 2022. The three were re-unified by the BJP-led Union government earlier this year.

In the last municipal elections in Delhi in 2017, the BJP had won 181 of a total of 272 seats across the three erstwhile civic bodies.

Some of the national leaders, including ministers of state, Union ministers and state chief ministers (CM), will also conduct door-to-door exercises as the party hopes to target around 50 lakh voters in the national capital, sources in the party told ThePrint.

“Between 8 am and 8 pm Sunday a number of our national and Delhi leaders will be on the streets campaigning for the party and giving a final push to the campaign. The target is to reach at least 12 lakh households,” said a senior BJP leader.

In addition to the mass contact programme, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states are also doing roadshows and rallies. While several chief ministers, including Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Himachal Pradesh CM Jairam Thakur have already held rallies in the first phase of campaigning, in the final phase the BJP will also deploy Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the sources said.

The MCD elections are scheduled to be held on 4 December and results are to be declared on 7 December. This year’s battle for the MCD seems to be pitched primarily between the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with the former leaving no stone unturned to gain a march over its rival.

According to one of the sources, BJP’s internal survey has indicated that the party is likely to get 120 out of 250 seats in the upcoming elections, which is a little below the 126 required majority.

“Around 25 more seats have been identified where greater push is required to ensure we are able to sail through. There are a few others where the winning margin is very slim and hence requires more focus,” the source said.

Sources also told ThePrint that BJP president J.P. Nadda has instructed all members of Parliament (MPs), members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Delhi and office bearers in the national capital to go door-to-door to contact voters and communicate with them personally.

“Party president J.P. Nadda has given a clear-cut message to all MPs and MLAs of Delhi BJP that everyone has to remain put in Delhi till the election day. As part of the MCD election strategy, BJP has decided to start a massive public campaign from 27 November (Sunday),” said a senior BJP leader.

Also read: ‘Liquor scam, bribes’ — how BJP’s Santhosh plotted ‘anti-graft’ MCD poll campaign against AAP

MCD polls a ‘prestige battle’ for BJP

The municipal polls have become something of a ‘prestige battle’ for the party which has been in power for the past three tenures.

“We are hoping to cross 100 easily and then considering anti-defection law is not applicable we will be able to reach the majority easily, especially with a few of our own leaders contesting as independent candidates after they were denied tickets,” said a second senior BJP leader.

The anti-defection law, enshrined in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, was inserted in 1985 to prevent political defections, and allows for the disqualification of an elected representative on that ground. It is, however, not applicable in Delhi municipal elections.

Explaining how the BJP is counting on poll booth management to ensure its ‘loyal voters’ turn up to vote, a party functionary said they are also hoping that the Congress vote share remains intact. While AAP had a vote share of 26 per cent, Congress’ stood at 21 and BJP’s 36 per cent in the 2017 elections, said a BJP functionary.

“If the vote share of Congress remains more or less the same, then we will be in a safe zone as there is no wave for any particular party and it is an open election. We have an advantage when it comes to poll-booth management. AAP workers are isolated after the ticket distribution and allegations of corruption within the party,” the functionary quoted above said.

In addition to the central leadership keeping a close eye on the election management, several senior BJP leaders, MPs and ministers have also been roped into campaigning for the candidates. Party president J.P. Nadda held two separate meetings with BJP MPs and other party leaders in Delhi this week to discuss the current situation and details of what needs to be done in the last leg of campaigning.

“As part of the election strategy, the party had earlier appointed in-charges for all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, but now in view of the mass contact programme being launched by the party, in-charges have been appointed in all the 70 assembly constituencies in the national capital. These in-charges will keep an eye on the condition of each (municipal) ward in their assembly (constituency) and BJP will take steps based on their reports,” said the party functionary.

According to a third senior BJP leader, one of the reasons the party is a little “jittery” about the outcome of the MCD elections is that they have not been able to counter the freebies being doled out by the AAP.

Delhi’s slum-dwellers constitute a vote bank that is eyed by all political parties. An estimated 20 lakh people live in the city’s slums. The slum-dwellers have long been perceived to favour the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the party in power in the Delhi government.

“We have not been able to come to power in Delhi at the assembly level and can’t afford to lose these elections. They (the MCD elections) have become a prestigious battle for the central leadership too,” added the party functionary.

According to the party source quoted above, with less than a fortnight left for the polls, BJP’s national general secretary Sunil Bansal has also been holding several meetings to keep an eye on the preparation and will be monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

Leaders in the BJP’s Delhi unit said they’re “confident” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration of over 3,000 flats for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers in Delhi’s Kalkaji Extension earlier this month would help the party connect with slum dwellers.

The Kalkaji Extension slum rehabilitation project for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) is part of the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) larger plan to rehabilitate residents of 376 jhuggi jhopri (slum) clusters in accordance with the guidelines of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), a housing-for-all scheme launched in 2015 that had the goal of making Indian cities slum-free by 2022.

“In the wards that are dominated by slums it has been difficult to garner their (the slum dwellers’) support. But at the same time owing to delimitation (following the MCD unification), (only) 30-50 of the total 250 municipal wards in Delhi have a high density of slums now. The 3,024 flats inaugurated for families falling under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently have also had its impact and our workers have been highlighting such efforts of the BJP-led centre,” added the functionary.

A fourth BJP leader stressed on the fact that anti-incumbency of AAP MLAs is also likely to play a factor in the polls. “In some parts of Delhi till sometime we were out of the race as far as municipal elections are concerned, but today we can say confidently that we are in the race and are confident of getting 130-140 seats.

“In the meeting (with Nadda Monday) some of the MPs said the situation was not very conducive (earlier), though things have improved in the past few days. They also expressed their concerns over ticket distribution. However, Nadda ji has asked everyone to now concentrate on the last leg of campaigning and ensure the party is able to continue its winning streak,” said the fourth senior party leader.

Following this week’s meeting with Nadda and Bansal , the party has also decided to hold over 10,000 small and large-scale meetings across Delhi.

“The dates are not yet finalised, but we intend to have at least two big public meetings of Yogi Adityanath in two Lok Sabha constituencies in Delhi that will create an impact in the adjoining constituencies as well,” the leader said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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