Roadshows led by political leaders have adorned the lanes of the national capital in the last few days to garner votes for their respective political parties in the upcoming MCD bypolls. On the polling day on February 28, Bharatiya Janata Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Congress will vie for five vacant seats in two wards – Rohini, Shalimar Bagh in North MCD and Trilokpuri, Kalyanpuri and Chauhan Bangar in East MCD.
The upcoming bypolls are being seen as a “semi-final” to the civic polls, scheduled next year. There are in total 272 wards and three civic bodies in Delhi – North, South, and East – all under the BJP since 2012.
While the BJP is reportedly focusing on its organisational skills, its main contender AAP, that is also in control of the Delhi government, will be hoping to register victory due to the anti-incumbency sentiments.
Be that as it may, there are some issues as well that has mired the MCD functioning in Delhi for years, which are expected to influence the voting patterns. The most prominent among them being the prevailing delay in disbursal of salaries to civic employees.
Only last month, nearly 35 employees’ associations – representing teachers, engineers, nurses, and safai karamcharis belonging to all classes, along with pensioners of the civic bodies – went on a work strike, demanding a “permanent solution” to the problems related to their pending salary that they have been facing.
They had alleged that the usual delay of two to four months in monthly payments rose to seven months in some cases in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic last year – forcing the employees to abstain their duties.
The history of their grievances can be traced back to 2012, when the erstwhile MCD in Delhi was trifurcated by the then Congress government in the national capital. Add to this, the unique administrative structure of Delhi, being a Union Territory, where civic bodies come under the control of the Centre.
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This has presented a challenge, particularly since AAP came to power in Delhi, broadly resulting into the issue being reduced to what Delhi High Court in January this year termed as a “political slug fest”.
With no “permanent solution” achieved for this even through the strike action, that was called off later after receiving a few months’ payment, the employees now turn their eyes with hope to the general public to vote accordingly, even as a section rue that the struggle will continue, no matter which party wins.
The results of the bypolls are expected to hugely influence the 2022 civic polls results.
“People must vote the party that promises to smoothen the administrative functioning of the MCD. After all, if that is improved then it is the public itself that will reap the benefits of it,” said Ram Nivas Solanki, general secretary, MCD Teachers’ Association. In Delhi, birth and death certificates, primary education, healthcare, cleaning of roads, garbage disposal among others fall under the purview of corporations.
Solanki added that the primary teachers, especially in North MCD, have only received their salaries till October. “They claim that it is due to fund crunch. Both AAP and BJP shift the blame on each other,” Solanki lamented, adding that the employees demands in fact now focuses on the consolidation of the three MCD zones.
“The employees are perturbed with the continuing problem of salary delays – due to the fight between AAP and BJP. We hope that ends at the earliest because we feel sandwiched between the two parties,” said Hitesh Gandhi of the Contract Engineers’ Association, MCD. “It is up to the public now to understand and decide wisely whom to chose,” he added.
Indumati, general secretary of the Hindu Rao Nurses Union told NewsClick that it hardly matters which party rules the corporation because she believes the struggles of the employees will anyway continue. “Salary delay is only one issue, the MCD employees are also facing immense work pressure since there is a shortage of manpower,” she said. Citing the example of Hindu Rao Hospital, that falls under the purview of North MCD, Indumati claimed that only 14 nursing officials are employed in the hospital as against the sanctioned posts of 144.
Regarding the bypolls, she said, “It is the employees who actually provide services to the public. Our issues must be thought through before choosing whom to vote.”