After the historical drubbing it received in the Assembly Elections, the Congress Party is quietly making a comeback in the National Capital; Pramod Kumar reports
Congress has made a remarkable comeback in the political landscape of the national capital by winning almost half of the 13 municipal wards which went for the polls recently. To put this in perspective, this is the same turf where Congress had failed to secure even a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha and subsequent assembly polls. AAP, which is aiming to win a majority in the municipal elections next year, managed to win only five seats. It was however AAP’s first municipal election. The strategists were sure of a landslide victory. The reality came as a rude awakening for them. AAP won the same number of seats as the Congress — but it saw a massive loss of votes compared to the assembly elections. Although AAP is trying to spin the result in its favour, political observers maintain that it is a major setback for the party, which is also aiming for a majority in the Punjab Assembly Elections. Despite such a sharp drop in votes, AAP leader Sanjay Singh springs a very different argument. “Local elections, especially ward elections, should be seen in the right perspective. Some people are comparing our performance with the assembly and Parliamentary elections, which is not fair. In the 2013 Delhi elections, we got only 28 seats, but in 2015 we came to power. We foresee the repeat of the same phenomenon in the coming MCD elections,” he said, talking to TSI. Transport Minister Gopal Rai also seems to be toeing the same line. ”The work of legislators has no reflection on ward elections. In fact, these elections are totally different. There are ample examples. For example Delhi was ruled by Congress for nearly a decade and a half, but local body MCD was dominated by BJP. So there is no direct correlation between the two, “he argues. There may be a point here. The worst to perform in this election was BJP. The party that has the majority in all three civic bodies, only managed to win three seats in total. It, however, did manage to secure 34 percent of votes, and was runners up in as many as eight wards. BJP leaders are disappointed. In fact, the central leadership has asked a clarification as to why it could not maintain the pace despite having the majority in three civic bodies, and the highest vote percentage among the three parties. The state party president Satish Upadhyay says, ”The results have proved that the people have rejected the policies of AAP government. The government has proved short on the aspirations of the people. They made false promises, and people have started to see through them. We are sure that BJP will win the municipal elections by a majority.” “AAP has its own claims to conquer Delhi municipal and Punjab assembly elections, but it is far from the reality,” says Dr Shakeel Ahmed, the in-charge general secretary of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee. “Byanalyzing the voting pattern, we have observed that the areas like Munirka and R K Puram, which are dominated by government employees, have shown anger against the BJP-led Central Government. The case of East Delhi is different, as people here rejected the state government. In conclusion, we can say that there is a rejection of both state as well as the central government. The way Congress has resurfaced has reenergized the party. The rise in vote percentage, from 9 to 24 percent, has given a boost to Congress workers, who had started assembling at DPCC office after a very long time. The state Congress Chief Ajay Maken is now busy with the formulation of a road map for the upcoming municipal elections. He says, ”Despite no presence in the assembly, we raised the issues of the marginalized people. We stood with them when they were in trouble. So they have shown confidence in the Congress Party.” Former Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, who ruled Delhi for a very long time, had a reason to smile. She says, “You can’t keep fooling people for a long time. The way AAP in Delhi and BJP in the Centre has made tall promises, it was bound to fall short. You will see that both the parties will meet their fate very soon.” The victory in the local elections has also strengthened the position of Ajay Maken inside the party. Since the entire endeavour was planned and executed by him, he is right in taking the credit for the victory. His detractors inside the state party unit will now have to bide their time.
“It is a big resurgence for the party”
It is a big achievement securing five seats in the MCD bypolls, especially after the dismal performance in the Lok Sabha and the Assembly Elections. Congress has reason to cheer… It is a big boost for the Party. For the first time after the 2009 Parliamentary Elections, people have shown faith in Congress. Our performance has improved from the lowest level of 6.8 percent of the popular vote share in previous elections to a confident level of almost 30 percent. This quantum jump in vote percentage will no doubt consolidate our position as a strong opposition. This will also instill new-found confidence inside party workers.
What are the factors that you think led to this turnaround for the party? The main factor is the resentment against Aam Aadmi Party. The result has proved that AAP dwells merely in false promises. The faith of every section has been badly shattered. They are the most aggrieved and feel cheated by the AAP government. The big announcements have not changed things on ground. The next big factor behind this turnaround is the way of functioning of AAP. It is still working like an NGO or an opposition party, while being in the government. It is not behaving like a party in power. AAP has a different way of working. The entire energy of the government goes in fighting with the governor and central government. Where is the time for development? With time, the people of Delhi have started missing the developments during Congress rule. The present government speaks through misleading hoardings and advertisements only. We have always been abreast of issues in the state and have countered the government’s decisions, in spite of being absent in the assembly. So our honest attempt to raise the voice of the marginal section has created a sense of confidence in the voters for us. We will continue to raise the issues of marginal communities and of the downtrodden.
What has worked for you personally as the state president? My biggest strength is support of the leadership. If I have a cause to fight for, or if there’s any issue worth raising, for which I seek support of the party; I am always assured of that support. Whenever I have asked for support from the Party High Command, I have gotten it. It gives me strength and confidence. Whenever I have asked Rahul Ji to come and take a look at the issue, he has complied. I asked him to listen to the problems of Safai Karmacharis who were on strike; Rahul Ji came and joined the protest. He is always ready to meet the aggrieved and agitated people of Delhi, whenever they are suffering from any problem, or are affected by the government’s decisions.
What is the roadmap for the future? Very soon, we will come with a road map for the forthcoming elections. We will accordingly organize our party workers for the MCD, and subsequently for the assembly elections. So a lot of organizing exercises are in the offing in the coming months. We hope to get a majority in the local polls.