The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seem to be on the same page about undoing the then Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government’s move in 2012 to trifurcate the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), supposedly to make it more “efficient”. Both want the trifurcated MCDs re-united.
Though the AAP has officially not yet taken a firm stand on the issue, BJP leaders across the MCDs have forwarded a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking the Ministry’s approval for the unification of the MCDs.
Professor Rajni Abbi, vice-president of the Delhi BJP and former Delhi Mayor, said that the division of the MCDs was “lopsided”. She told The Sunday Guardian: “We want to serve the people through a strong Corporation, which can address the problems of the people. The experiment of splitting the Corporation has failed in the past five years and it is time we undid the wrong.”
While Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has indicated his consent for a unified MCD before the 2017 MCD polls, at a meeting with members of the MCDs, the AAP has officially not yet taken a firm stand on the issue. However, a senior AAP leader said, “We are a party that believes in a decentralised form of governance and if a unified and strong MCD facilitates in effective governance of the city, we would want the MCDs to unify. We would pursue anything that benefits the citizens of Delhi.”
Subhash Arya, Leader of the House of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, is also in favour of unification of the MCDs. “We are deliberating on the issue. The trifurcation has not done any good to any of the MCDs; rather, it has led to bankruptcy of the MCDs as the state government has failed to take the financial liabilities it was supposed to take,” Arya said.
“The re-unification is the jurisdiction of the Delhi government. The state government should pass a resolution and forward it to the MHA. Arvind Kejriwal had earlier said that he would want to unify the MCDs, so he should act now,” Arya said.
However, Nagendra Sharma, spokesperson of the Delhi government, said: “We want the MCDs to work and if the BJP is in favour of unification, they should pass a resolution in the MCDs and ask the Ministry of Home Affairs. They have the Central government to them as well. The Delhi government does not have the MCDs.”
The MCD came into existence on 7 April 1958 and it was set up under The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, enacted by Parliament. However, in 2012, the then Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government trifurcated the MCD into North MCD, South MCD, East MCD with an intent to make them more “efficient”. The BJP has won the MCD elections for three consecutive terms and has been ruling the MCD for the past 14 years. Even after the trifurcation of the MCD, the BJP won all the three MCDs in 2012.
The BJP has accused the then Congress government of trifurcating the MCD with a “political motive”. Rajni Abbi, former MCD mayor, said that the corporation has become “useless” and “resource crunched” since its trifurcation. “The cost incurred in setting up the three new MCDs has caused a financial loss,” she said.
The division of the MCDs also created unequal distribution of finances among the three MCDs. “Maintenance of three offices, three mayors and three municipal commissioners has escalated costs,” Abbi said.
According to the BJP, the Delhi government is also supposed to part with 5% of the global tax share (total revenue earned by the Delhi government), but the Delhi government has not been giving the MCDs their shares on time. Also, according to recommendations of the 4th Finance Commission of Delhi, the Delhi government is supposed to pay 14% of the global tax share to the MCDs.
The mayor of the unified MCD was considered the “first citizen of Delhi”. However, with the trifurcation of the MCD, the mayors have become a “nominal figure”.
Abbi said, “The mayor of Delhi had always been one of the most important citizens of Delhi, but after the division, the powers of the mayors have also got divided.”
Sources within the MCD said that the mayor was equivalent to the Chief Minister and could even challenge the CM on several issues. “It is possible that the then CM felt threatened and wanted to dilute the powers of the mayor,” a source said.
According to the Congress, the MCDs are “local self-governments”. “The local government cannot be of the size of a state government and to make it accessible to the people, it was made smaller.” said Sandeep Diskshit, a senior Congress leader and former MP.