The Legislative Assembly Elections in Delhi are just around the corner (December 4). While the ruling Congress is facing 15 years of anti-incumbency and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit the prospect of losing out on a record fourth straight term, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal are fancying their chances of coming to power in the national capital.
Fifteen years are a long time in politics and this could prove to be the biggest roadblock for Congress in Delhi Assembly Elections 2013. While the face of Delhi has for sure changed in these 15 years (1998-2013), it would be far-fetched to say the national capital has come any close to being a world class city. A number of problems continue to mar Delhi’s progress, and these could prove to be the deciding factor in this year’s polls.
Let’s take a look at the issues that could decide the swing of votes in the Legislative Assembly Elections this year.
Corruption has become the buzzword in every election in India. For Congress, the issue is the biggest challenge. The reason: the country has probably never seen bigger scams in independent India than during Congress rule. While at the Centre, the Congress-led UPA government is facing scams like Coalgate, 2G, CWG etc, the city government in Delhi too is not far behind.
The biggest case to haunt the Delhi government is the multi-crore Commonwealth Games scam. While the shoddy preparations for the Games brought a bad name to the country, the massive corruption unearthed in construction projects undertaken by the Delhi government brought flak for CM Dikshit and her Cabinet. In fact, the CM was personally supervising several projects in the final days of preparations so as to ensure timely completion.
The BJP has accused the Delhi government of irregularities in the public distribution system, saying food meant for the poor is not reaching the beneficiaries. The AAP too has hit out at the Congress regime for prevailing corruption in Delhi government departments, and has promised Jan Lokpal within 15 days if it is voted to power.
The common public also appears to be fed up with the alleged corruption prevailing in various government offices in the city, where bribe is sought to get things done.
While the Delhi government must be credited for ushering in the era of 24X7 power supply, it should also share the blame for failing to force the private distribution companies to improve infrastructure. The crumbling infrastructure leads to erratic, and sometimes massive, power cuts during summers when the demand is at its peak.
Further, both the BJP and the AAP have accused the Delhi government of being in connivance with the power discoms in fixing higher tariffs by showing losses in the balance sheets of the supply firms. The opposition parties allege the discoms are in fact earning massive profits. Both the parties have promised to reduce power tariffs anywhere between 20% to 30% if they come to power.
In a survey conducted by the AAP, drinking water has emerged as the top issue in Delhi polls 2013. As per the survey, 28% respondents labelled drinking water as the biggest issue for them.
While some areas of the national capital get water supply 24 hours, there are some where residents have to wake up as early as 5 am to make full use of half-hour water supply. And then there are areas that rarely see taps running; they have to depend on water tankers sent by the Delhi Jal Board to meet their daily water requirements. The lack of dependable water supply is one of the biggest causes of underground water exploitation in Delhi, where the use of the same has now been banned by courts.
Women’s safety and Policing
The December 16 gang-rape last year evoked emotions like never before. The sexual assault on a 22-year-old paramedical student on a moving bus, and her subsequent passing away in a Singapore hospital, led to unprecedented – sometimes violent – protests in Delhi as well as other parts of the country.
The case shook the nation’s conscience out of deep slumber and forced the political class to bring in tough anti-rape laws.
The policing in the national capital has been revamped to a large extent, and one can see more cops and barricades at night on all major roads. But, the cases of rapes and sexual assault have not come down and the crimes against women are on the rise as before the infamous Delhi gang-rape case. And this negative sentiment could hurt the Delhi government badly, even though CM Sheila Dikshit claims the Home Ministry has control over the Delhi Police and not her government.
Like the common man in every other part of the country, the average Delhiite is also reeling under the burden of massive price rise. Prices of all essential commodities have risen manifold over the past several years. With the Congress-led government being in power at the Centre for the last 10 years, the Sheila Dikshit government cannot pass on the buck to Union government for its faulty economic policies.
The current spike in onion prices, which have touched Rs 100 per kg, coupled with a steady surge in diesel and petrol prices is testing the common man’s tolerance levels. What could be worrying Sheila Dikshit the most is the fact that rising onion prices were partly blamed for incumbent BJP’s defeat in 1998 elections.
This is one area where the Delhi government can claim to have brought in maximum change. Delhi surely has witnessed improvement in basic infrastructure, be it the number of flyovers that have come up in the last 15 years, the Metro rail system, introduction of CNG as a clean alternative fuel for public transportation, low-floor buses, better quality roads etc. However, there is still lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness and drainage system. Delhi could easily be dubbed as one of the filthiest capital cities in the world, while its drainage system crumbles every year during Monsoon. Further, roads continue to be in bad shape in areas that don’t fall under NDMC’s jurisdiction or are not major roads.