Battle lines have been drawn for fierce, high-stakes municipal polls in Delhi on Sunday, which will be a triangular fight between the BJP ~ which has ruled the Muncipal Corporations of Delhi (MCDs) for the last
two consecutive terms since 2007 ~ the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ~ which is at the helms of the Delhi government since 2015 ~ and the Congress party which has virtually been relegated to the margins of the national capital politics.
It will be a culmination on Sunday of weeks of unrelenting, high-voltage and even no-holds-barred campaign involving the top leaders of the BJP, AAP and Congress in order to stake their respective claims on the three MCDs.
The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal remained the AAP's face in its MCD polls campaign while the BJP, led by its state unit president Manoj Tiwari, projected the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government's performance during its electioneering.
Along with Kejriwal, the AAP's MCD polls campaign was spearheaded by the Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. A slew of top central and state BJP leaders, including Union Ministers, took part in the saffron party's high-octane campaign.
The Congress's electioneering was spearheaded by its state unit chief Ajay Maken although the party also deployed a number of its senior leaders in its bid to reach out to the denizens of Delhi.
This is the first time the AAP is participating in the MCD polls, whose outcome would be significant for the fledgling Kejriwal-led party which has been smarting from its dismal assembly elections performance in Punjab and Goa. Its candidate had lost his security deposit in the recent assembly bye-election to the Rajouri Garden constituency in Delhi too.
The civic polls will also be crucial for the Congress which had been completely wiped out in the Delhi assembly elections in 2015. The beleagured party is eyeing a major oportunity in the MCD polls to try and make a "comeback" in the Delhi politics. It had emerged as a runner up in the Rajouri Garden bypoll which was won by the BJP by a huge margin.
Despite being the incumbent party in MCDs, the BJP seems to be riding high on the "wave" generated by Modi and the party president Amit Shah, even as the party, in a bid to neutralise its decade-old anti-incumbency factor, dropped all its sitting councillors in order to field new candidates.
While the AAP and the Congress went after "graft and misrule" plaguing the BJP-ruled MCDs, the BJP attacked the Kejriwal government's "failures and irregularities", with the three parties pledging to create a "clean, smart Delhi" in the event of clinching the MCDs.
In the wake of the AAP's setback in the Punjab assembly polls, Kejriwal had consistently targeted electronic voting machines (EVMs), alleging that they had been tampered. He even demanded that MCD elections be conducted through the old system of ballot papers, calling for these polls to be even deferred to enable it.
The Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal and the State Election Commission, however, rejected CM's demand for being "untenable". The poll authorities have maintained that EVMs have always been "tamper-proof".
The MCD was trifurcated in 2012 into three corporations, with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation accounting for 104 wards each while the East Delhi Municipal Corporation having 64 wards.
Over 13 million people of Delhi are eligible to exercise their franchise in over 13,000 booths for altogether 272 wards of the three MCDs. The counting of votes will take place on 26 April.