CHENNAI: After 18 months, the AIADMK government on Thursday reversed its stand on the mode of election of mayors of municipal corporations, chairpersons of municipalities and town panchayats, from indirect to direct election.
A Bill, introduced by municipal administration minister S P Velumani in this regard, said direct election of mayors and chairmen of urban local bodies would facilitate better administration and quick delivery of civic services to the people.
Though the DMK welcomed the move, it expressed apprehension that it could be another ploy by the ruling party to delay the local-body polls.
On June 23, 2016, the Assembly adopted a Bill to do away with the practice of direct election of mayors and chairmen of urban local bodies.
In 2006, the DMK government scrapped the direct election of mayors. In 2011, however, soon after coming to power, the AIADMK regime resumed it.
Saidai Duraisamy was elected directly by the people as mayor. Direct election to the post of mayor was first tried out two decades ago when MK Stalin became the first directly-elected mayor of Chennai. He won again in 2001, but was removed after the AIADMK government introduced the legislation barring a person from holding two elected posts — he was also an MLA at that time.
Talking to Express, former Mayor of Chennai Corporation and now MLA representing the Saidapet constituency, M Subramanian said, “I see this change of mind of the ruling party as yet another ploy to postpone the elections to local bodies since a sudden change of policy within 18 months may warrant some legal hurdles. But as far as the DMK is concerned, we stand for direct election of mayors and we welcome it.” Subramanian recalled that the DMK had stoutly opposed the bill for doing away with the direct election of mayors, tabled in 2016.
He said there were lot of discrepancies in the delimitation of wards for local bodies, based on which the elections are to be held. Last week, he personally met the officials concerned and presented his views on what should be rectified. When the practice of direct election of mayors was done away with in June, 2016, the government reasoned it out this way: “At present, elections to the municipal corporations are conducted on party basis.
It has been brought to the notice of the government that the councils of certain municipal corporations are not functioning properly since the mayor does not enjoy the support of the councillors. It is considered that if the mayor of a corporation enjoys the support of the majority of councillors, the council can function in a better manner. Therefore, the government has decided to elect the mayor of the Corporations indirectly by the councillors from among themselves. In 18 States, mayors are being elected only through indirect election.”
Now, the Bill introduced by Velumani justifies the change of stand this way: “After the direct election of mayors was scrapped, a large number of representations were received from the general public, various forums, and elected representatives that the direct election of mayors is the best system for smooth functioning of administration of the urban local bodies.”
The minister also said the heads of the departments had informed that in view of the indirect election of mayors and chairmen, they had necessarily to pay more attention to the development of their division/ward from where they are elected, instead of the entire areas of such municipal corporations, municipalities and town panchayats. Further, they have to depend upon the strength of the councillors and members of such urban local bodies and they would not be in a position to act independently.
Direct election to the post of mayor was first tried out two decades ago when M K Stalin became the first directly-elected mayor of Chennai. He won again in 2001, but was removed after the AIADMK govt introduced the legislation barring a person from holding 2 posts.