Indian Decade

A Delhi Warning for Congress?

New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is under fire after Congress loses municipal elections in the city Tuesday.

Congress leader Sheila Dikshit is facing some of the toughest criticism since she took over as Delhi chief minister in 1998 after archrival the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured a municipal poll victory on Tuesday. The BJP won a narrow majority, securing 138 seats out of 272.

Despite the BJP win, the party won 24 seats less than the previous poll five years ago, while the Congress Party improved its tally to 78 from 64 seats. Still, this didn’t stop senior BJP leader V.K. Malhotra from demanding that Dikshit resign immediately.

“The results are a mandate against Congress misrule. Sheila Dikshit should accept moral responsibility for this defeat, and resign immediately,” Malhotra, leader of the opposition in Delhi’s assembly, reportedly said Tuesday.

Dikshit’s masterstroke of splitting the gigantic Municipal Corporation of Delhi into three areas failed to benefit the Congress at the polls as the BJP swept all three with an aggressive campaign highlighting corruption and price rises.

The defeat certainly complicates things for Dikshit as the Delhi assembly polls are due next year and the BJP has as expected claimed it will win the 2013 assembly polls, too. The BJP said the win should be seen as a semifinal ahead of the assembly elections, with party President Nitin Gadkari remarking, “The BJP is emerging as an alternative.”

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Political observers see the Congress defeat in the Delhi municipal elections as having implications at the national level as this is the third straight defeat for the party in municipal elections since 2010, when the party lost in Bangalore, which was followed more recently by a defeat in Mumbai. However, Union Minister Kapil Sibal argued that neither national nor state issues had had any impact on the results. Dikshit's son and MP Sandeep Dikshit accepted the seriousness of the defeat, but blamed it on price rises and scandals like the 2G scam.