The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to take charge of the Delhi municipal body and end the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 15-year reign of the Capital’s civic administration, a clutch of exit polls predicted on Monday. The Congress, which last helmed Civic Centre between 2002 and 2007, will be restricted to less than 10 wards, according to the polls.
Around 50% of Delhi’s eligible residents on Sunday cast their ballot to pick their representatives across 250 wards. The results will be announced on Wednesday.
A prominent survey, India Today-Axis MyIndia, predicted that the AAP would win between 149 and 171 seats, on the back of a campaign that tried to draw focus on the sanitation mess in the city, blaming the BJP for civic apathy. The BJP, which won 181 seats in the 2017 municipal polls, is likely to win 69 to 91 seats and the Congress will be limited to single digits, the poll said.
According to the NewsX-Jan Ki Baat exit poll, AAP is likely to win 150 to 175 seats, the BJP 70 to 92 and the Congress four to seven.
The AAP said the predictions prove that voters in Delhi reposed their faith in a party that has governed the national capital for over seven years now.
AAP spokesperson Reena Gupta said, “The people of Delhi know that the AAP delivers on its guarantees. Delhi will be free of garbage soon. We expect to get more seats than the prediction made by exit polls.”
To be sure, exit polls are not always accurate and have often got the verdict wrong in earlier elections, especially in states with diverse populations, castes and communities. But they are useful in identifying trends.
However, if the final results are along the lines of the exit polls, it would signal that the BJP didn’t benefit electorally from the Centre’s decision to unify the three municipal corporations, a call that led to the state election commission postponing the municipal polls at the last minute in March this year. Unification also led to an extensive delimitation exercise, which saw wards across the city being recast, and their total number being reduced from 272 to 250.
The BJP has governed the civic bodies for 15 years, from 2007 to 2022, and experts said that the party had to fend off anti-incumbency. The AAP also focussed its attack on city’s sanitation situation, the three garbage mountains and corruption within the civic body, which has seen its functioning impaired significantly thanks to a near-continuous financial crisis.
BJP leaders, for their part, said the final result will be “very different from the exit polls”.
Senior Delhi BJP leader Ashish Sood, convener of the party’s municipal election committee, said, “We will do much better than what the exit polls have predicted. We don’t know what the sample size of these polls is. We have seen a huge support for the BJP; there was no anti-incumbency against us. There was a triangular contest on at least 60 seats. It seems that these polls have not factored this.”
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary also said the polls were disconnected from reality.
“I reject these exit polls, as these don’t present the ground reality. Our party workers have worked very hard for the past three years. There are several areas where we have performed well. As per our survey, Congress is doing well on at least 70 seats.”
The AAP, which made its debut in municipal elections in 2017, won 48 of the 272 wards and emerged as the main opposition party in all three civic bodies, replacing the Congress. The party has been running a sustained campaign against the BJP blaming it for the sanitation mess for the past few years.
Since 2015, when the AAP came to power in Delhi, the two political parties have been at loggerhead over funds for the civic body. The BJP has accused the AAP-led Delhi government for the financial crisis in the corporations, even as the latter accused it of financial mismanagement and corruption.
For the BJP, the municipal polls were crucial to remain relevant in the city’s governance system. The party, which has been out of power in the Delhi government since 1998, has just eight MLAs in the Delhi assembly.
In 2017, the BJP not only won the municipal polls despite strong anti-incumbency, it got 181 seats, 43 seats more than what it won in 2012 municipal polls.