Delhi: Amid stalemate over Mayor election, civic issues take a backseat

Delhi: Amid stalemate over Mayor election, civic issues take a backseat

Two sessions, two adjournments. Nearly two months after the residents of Delhi gave a clear mandate to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to run the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the city is yet to get its Mayor, Deputy Mayor and six members of the standing committee, a group of 18 members that effectively manages the corporation.

Amid repeated adjournments leading to the non-initiation of the civic body’s formal functioning, residents and civic issues continue to be relegated to the sidelines. With both sessions of MCD — on January 6 and January 24 — witnessing clashes between the AAP and the BJP, there seems to be no solution in sight to end this logjam.

Civic governance in abeyance

“The stalemate has affected the residents of Delhi and the overall civic governance. I have been engaging private labourers to undertake civic work in my area and have been paying them from my pocket. Ideally, during this time, we should be discussing the budget in the house. The civic body’s annual budget has to be cleared by February 15 as per the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. I don’t know how the budget will be cleared if the logjam persists,” Ariba Khan, Congress councillor from Abul Fazal Enclave, told The Federal.

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Recalling how the councillors had strictly adhered to the party’s decision to abstain from voting in the Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral election, Ariba Khan said that out of nine councillors, Congress had a direct face-off with seven AAP sitting councillors in the Muslim-dominated areas. The Congress will not extend its support to either BJP or AAP for the mayoral election. “For us, the BJP and the AAP are the two sides of the same coin. AAP has been asking us for our support to strengthen its overall tally, thereby increasing its prospects in the Mayoral race. As the anti-defection rules don’t apply in the local body elections, AAP has reservations and fears cross-voting,” observed Khan.

Special officer in charge for now

Rajesh Kumar, a constitutional expert, said: “Section 36 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, provides that the term of the office of the mayor shall be until his successor is elected or otherwise provided in the section. But in view of the amendment in act, the previous committee of the corporation has been abolished and, therefore, there is no existing Mayor or deputy mayor. Hence, until the due election is conducted and mayor and deputy mayor are elected, the present logjam can’t be addressed. The day-to-day work of the corporation shall be carried out by the office of the commissioner, who is the executive head of the corporation, but all work related to the office of the mayor shall remain pending in view of the present logjam.”

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Insisting on confidentiality, an official from MCD said: “Until the Mayor and the Standing Committee is elected, a special officer will be taking decisions as he has been doing till now. But major decisions related to development works and policy matters will be halted till the time we have a Mayor and a standing committee.” Last year, the Centre had appointed Ashwani Kumar and Gyanesh Bharti as the special officer and commissioner, respectively, of the unified MCD.

The real power struggle

The ‘functional’ power to operate the various local bodies is with a Standing Committee. The standing committee is the civic body’s second-highest decision-making body after the House and deals with the day-to-day matters of the corporation.

There are matters on which the Standing Committee can take a call without seeking the approval of the house. The house will elect six of the 18 members. The remaining 12 members will be elected through polls in the MCD’s 12 zones or clusters of municipal wards.

Why mayoral election is crucial

It is only after the election of the mayor and deputy mayor that normal proceedings of the House can get underway. No concurrence of the Delhi government and the L-G office will be required to hold meetings and the civic body can get down to business.

Putting civic issues at the forefront 

Rejecting  AAP’s campaign, “BJP’s 15 years vs AAP’s 3 weeks”, residents say they want concrete action on ground  and not propaganda or campaigns. According to them, AAP’s superficial show of work since the declaration of results on December 7 will not address the civic problems. “The corporation hasn’t begun functioning officially and there is nobody who can register our complaints. We appeal to both AAP and the BJP to end the logjam and get done with the internal elections,” said residents in Kalkaji.

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