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New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party has accused Bharatiya Janata Party of coercing the State Election Commission to delay the announcement of dates of the upcoming municipal polls.
On Monday, March 14, AAP leaders gheraoed the BJP headquarters in New Delhi.
Forcing EC to cancel elections is unprecedented, unconstitutional and bad for democracy. Press Conference | LIVE https://t.co/IPKrtfeJuK
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 11, 2022
BJP has dominated the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, emerging victorious in successive polls. However, with its win in Punjab, AAP seems to have set its eyes firmly on the MCD.
Providing services to 97% of Delhi’s population across 272 municipal wards, the MCD is the world’s second largest civic body.
In a press conference last week, the State Election Commission stated that the elections would be held in April 2022 but deferred the announcement of dates.
The SEC, in its official statement, said that the polls have not been delayed but legal opinion will have to be taken in light of the Union government’s plan to reunify the three municipalities.
An amendment to the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act to unify the three municipalities – South, North and East – is likely to be brought during the second part of the Budget Session of the parliament, which starts on March 14 and ends on April 8.
Two of the three municipal corporations ranked at the bottom of the 2021 Swachh Survekshan out of the 48 assessed urban local bodies.
The three MCDs were earlier run under a single mayor. Because of a rapidly growing population, it was split in January 2012, during the late Sheila Dixit’s term as chief minister, into three divisions. This was done with a view to decentralise administration for better governance.
But uneven distribution of revenue sources led to a financial crunch for North and East, marred by dozens of strikes by sanitation workers, teachers, doctors and other staff over non-payment of their salaries.
Considered to be much better off than the other two, the South’s financial situation also started showing cracks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Observers say that the decision to unify the MCD should have come sooner and too much damage has already been done.
The BJP too, is pushing on these lines. Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta, in a press release, said that the trifurcation “has not helped in betterment of administration and in fact has caused economic crisis in civic bodies.”
He also accused the Kejriwal government of withholding municipal funds.
Denying the charge, AAP’s MCD in-charge in Delhi, Durgesh Pathak, said, “The financial commission directs us when to release funds, and we do as directed.”
Further, he asked, “Does the BJP have any documents to prove that we have withheld funds?”
Pathak also told The Wire that the unification plan and MCD elections have no connection.
“Delhi is not that big a state. It is quite small, and 272 wards is not so difficult to govern. Unification is just an excuse because the BJP wants to run away from the elections,” he said.
Accusing the BJP of corruption, he asked, “If the Delhi government could increase its budget threefold, why is the MCD budget not going up?”
Pathak said that issues relating to disposal of garbage, stray animals, foul smell and drains may affect a citizen’s mental health too.
“All the garbage hills around, overflowing drains…it is a disgrace for common Delhiites. No matter how beautiful one’s house is on the inside, one step outside will end up ruining one’s mood,” he said.
He said that there is a “land mafia” in Delhi because of the “corrupt” MCD and that 80% of Delhiites live in unauthorised colonies and jhuggis, rampant with sanitation and garbage disposal issues.
Pathak is confident AAP will remove BJP from the MCD.
The biggest question, he said, is why the elections were suddenly delayed. “This unification plan sprung out of nowhere,” he said.
Sources in AAP have said that the BJP has coerced the SEC to delay elections because of AAP’s “unprecedented” victory in Punjab.
Senior AAP leader Gopal Rai said, “No one expected that we’d need to agitate to get MCD elections conducted after our landslide victory in Punjab.”
The Delhi BJP president, however, said that the BJP does not fear elections.
“Arvind Kejriwal is afraid of the elections as there is widespread resentment amongst people due to his corrupt liquor policy,” Adesh Gupta said.
“Questioning the Election Commission is proof of Kejriwal’s anarchist views,” he added.