Delhi’s three civic bodies to be merged into one: What this means for Capital and why there's controversy over the move

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The dates of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have not yet been announced, but the warring of political parties has already begun. Days after the State Election Commissioner (SEC) announced that the MCD polls dates were deferred, the Union Cabinet gave a go ahead to The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022.

What’s the Act and how does it impact the capital? And why are the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having a heated exchange over it?

From three to one

The Act aims to merge Delhi’s three municipal corporations – South, North, and East  – and the amendment is likely to be scheduled in the ongoing Budget session of the Parliament. The MCD was trifurcated in 2012 under the Sheila Dikshit government to decentralise governance.

After the trifurcation, the North and East civic bodies faced financial distress. The division of resources was also reportedly unequal between them at the South MCD, which is cash-rich, reports The Indian Express.

The BJP has been ruling the civic bodies for 15 years, while the AAP rules the state. Now the Centre’s decision to merge the three municipal corporations is being looked at by the AAP – from whom it faces a stiff competition in the polls – as an excuse to delay the polls.

The AAP attack

Aatishi, the AAP MLA from Kalkaji, said that the BJP, despite being the largest political party, is “running away” from the election as “small as the Delhi MCD polls”. The party was afraid of facing Arvind Kejriwal, she added.

“The BJP is in power for the last 15 years in MCDs, and for seven years at the Centre. Why did they think of unification only after the exit poll results for the Punjab assembly elections were released?” the senior AAP leader asked.

On Wednesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also lashed out at the BJP over postponement of the elections. “We (the AAP) will leave politics if BJP gets the MCD polls held (timely) and wins them,” Kejriwal told the media outside the Delhi Assembly.

He also wrote on Twitter that today the BJP was postponing the Delhi Municipal Elections due to fear of defeat, tomorrow they will postpone elections of state and country.

The State Election Commission decided to defer the announcement of polls dates two weeks ago after the Centre made its intention to unify the three civic bodies clear. The poll body drew flak from AAP which accused it of succumbing to pressure. “The country is important and not political parties. If we pressure the Election Commission, it weakens institutions. We should not let the institutions weaken since it weakens democracy,” Kejriwal had said earlier in the month amid talks of deferring the elections.

How will the BJP benefit?

There’s talk within political circles that the BJP state unit wanted the MCD polls to be deferred by six months. It wants to use the time convince the people of Delhi that things have changed after the Centre’s decision to unify the civic bodies, according to a report in The Indian Express.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said that the trifurcation had weakened the financial health of the existing civic bodies in the city and unification will help in making the corporation financially stable.
“Unification of MCDs will also help in better development works and timely disbursal of salaries of employees,” he added.

He accused the AAP of opposing the move because it would strengthen the corporation. “In the last seven years every day they worked to weaken civic bodies. The Union government’s move will prove to be very beneficial for Delhi residents and the civic body. The Modi government always works for the betterment of the people,” Gupta added.

Congress for unification

Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken said that the unification of municipalities will help improve their financial position and will be administratively beneficial, but added that the Union government should have brought the Bill at least six months earlier to prevent any delay in elections.

He also blamed the Delhi government for the poor financial condition of civic bodies.

On March 17, the AAP had moved Supreme Court seeking direction to the SEC to expeditiously conduct the municipal elections in a free and fair manner. The party said that the “brazen influence” of the central government over the poll body and its “flagrant meddling” with the conduct of municipal elections forms the subject matter of the plea.

The civic polls have been deferred indefinitely but looks like it’s going to be a fight to the finish in Delhi.

With inputs from agencies

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Delhi’s three civic bodies to be merged into one: What this means for Capital and why there's controversy over the move
Delhi’s three civic bodies to be merged into one: What this means for Capital and why there's controversy over the move
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