Delhi is all set to vote in a triangular contest for 272 seats in MCD elections on Sunday. The big parties in fray - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - were engaged in a bitter war of words as they highlighted their achievements and promises, setting the tone for a keen contest on April 23.
The BJP is upbeat after its victory in the Rajouri Garden assembly bypoll, and the Congress is also happy with its increased vote share in the byelections. The AAP is bit worried as its candidate lost the deposit in the Rajouri Garden byelections.
However, AAP leader and Delhi's deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said after the party's loss in the Rajouri Garden bypoll that the people of the area were unhappy with Jarnail Singh's decision to quit the seat and move to Punjab for assembly elections.
A win in the MCD polls is extremely crucial for the AAP to give its volunteers much-needed ammunition to keep going after the party's poor show in Punjab and Goa and the defeat in bypoll to Rajouri Garden assembly seat.
The victory in the local body polls would also boost the much needed confidence of the party as it plans to contest the Gujarat assembly polls to be held later this year.
The 2017 civic body polls, across 272 wards, is scheduled on April 23 and the counting of voters will take place on April 26.
The BJP, the Congress and the AAP are locked in a triangular contest. Let's have a look at what's at stake for these big parties-
'Do or die for AAP'
The AAP on Friday formally ended its nearly three-month-long campaign for the crucial MCD polls with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launching a stinging attack on the BJP and the Congress and holding a road show.
In the last lap of hectic campaigning, a bitter war of words ensued after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the people would "risk" the health of their children if they voted for the BJP in the polls as it had failed to provide proper sanitation to the citizen.
Reacting sharply, BJP New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, without naming Arvind Kejriwal, said that his government had spent funds on "self promotion" instead of publicity to make people aware of diseases like dengue and chikungunya that have become a major health hazards in the last few years in Delhi.
"Such a thing can be said only by a man having a brain of a mosquito. His government spent Rs 526 crore on publicity of his party and its leaders instead of telling the people how to fight against dengue and chikungunya," Lekhi said.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit also criticised the Kejriwal's statement, saying that as usual he is passing the responsibility on others.
"Being a chief minister, he is supposed to help the municipal corporations if they are in need," she said.
The AAP also tried to corner the BJP over its manifesto and said it is yet to fulfil several of its promises it had made during the 2012 municipal polls.
"The BJP knows that it has already lost plot in the MCD polls and this is why it had to cancel the rally of its party President Amit Shah," AAP Delhi unit convenor Dilip Pandey claimed.
The AAP had declared its first list of 109 candidates on February 24, about two months before the polls. Interestingly, it has changed candidates in more than 15 wards.
The elections for the 272 wards of North, East and South municipal corporations of Delhi will be held on April 23.
Kejriwal himself addressed more than two dozen rallies in an attempt to woo the voters.
The AAP chief announced soaps for different sections of the society, if it came to power, especially abolition of residential house tax.
He has also promised to put an end to the garbage woes in Delhi within a year and control the vector-borne diseases in three years.
'Litmus test for Maken'
Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit has said the MCD polls are a litmus test for the Congress's Delhi unit chief Ajay Maken.
She said that if Congress manages to win a "good number" of seats in the municipal corporation elections, then Maken will prove his detractors in Delhi Congress wrong.
"Let us wait for the election results when we will be really able to judge whether our impression is correct or incorrect. If Congress wins a good number of seats then what we are thinking would be proved wrong," she said when asked about questions on Maken's style of functioning.
Dikshit's name was not included in the list of party's top campaigners although Maken had claimed that he had a written to her for participating in the campaigning for party candidates.
Maken has faced criticism from some senior leaders of Delhi Congress over ticket distribution for the elections. A former member of the Dikshit regime AK Walia had threatened to quit the party in protest against Maken.
BJP focused on Modi's image
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari, who indulged in extensive campaigning in different parts of the city, said he witnessed "anger" against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal but "enthusiasm" among people for Prime Minister Modi's scheme and was assured of victory in the elections.
"During campaigning for the MCD polls, I interacted with lakhs of people and saw anger in their eyes against Kejriwal for obstructing development in Delhi. People showed great enthusiasm, however, for the programmes and schemes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he said.
The BJP campaign for the elections was divided into four phases. The first phase was devoted to reaching out to the youth.
It was followed by the second phase which focused on attacking the AAP and the Congress while the third phase comprised of highlighting achievements of the Modi government and the three municipal corporations ruled by the party, said party's Campaign and Publicity Committee chairman Kuljeet Singh Chahal.
The fourth and the last phase was devoted solely to tell how the party wanted to go about changing Delhi into the prime minister's dream city, he said.
The BJP based its election campaign for the MCD on the issues of development but the opposition parties tried to "divert" the campaign towards "negative" issues, said Shyam Jaju, party's national vice president and incharge of Delhi.
"Due to questions raised by the opposition parties on the impartiality of EVMs and sometime against the Election Commission this election became a contest between the BJP symbolising development and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-Congress representing negative thinking," Jaju said.
"Nearly 2,000 street plays, special spots on FM channels, advertisements on television channels, besides door-to-door contacts were part of the campaigning by the party," said campaign committee member Ashok Goel.
1.3 crore people eligible to vote
The state poll commission is working in full swing to ensure smooth functioning on the day of the elections which will begin at 8 AM.
Over 1.3 crore people are eligible to vote in the polls and of them more than 1.1 lakh are first-time voters.
Out of the 13,022 polling stations, police authorities have declared 3,284 as sensitive and 1,464 as hypersensitive.
For the first time in MCD elections, None Of The Above (NOTA) option will be available.
The Generation-1 electronic voting machines (EVMs) are to be used for the MCD elections, which the Commission has described as "foolproof".
The total number of electorate for the civic polls stands at 1,32,10,206 which include 73,15,915 men, 58,93,418 women and 793 voters in the other category.
Delhi has 70 Assembly seats and before the delimitation, every constituency had four wards, but, now it ranges from 3-7.
The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was trifurcated in 2012 into North, South and East Municipal Corporations. While NDMC and SDMC have 104 wards each, EDMC has 64. The campaign for the polls ended this evening.
The MCD polls in 2012 had seen a turnout of 54 per cent.
(With inputs from PTI)