NEW DELHI: Not for nothing is the mayor known as the first citizen of a city. After all, normally there is one mayor in any city. Until now, even Delhi had one—Professor Rajni Abbi. But come next week, Delhi will have not one, but three first citizens.
Following the directions of the state election commission (SEC), the office of the municipal secretary has issued the notification starting the process of election of three mayors and deputy mayors, along with six standing committee members, to head the newly trifurcated Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). There will now be a set of mayors and depuries for each of Municipal Corporation of North Delhi (MCND), Municipal Corporation of South Delhi (MCSD) and Municipal Corporation of East Delhi (MCED).
The notification has been issued by the municipal secretary’s office, in accordance with the rules of The Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act, 1957, which states that in the first general body meeting, a member of the house should be elected as the mayor and another as their deputy. The DMC Act further states that the office of the mayor shall be reserved for a lady member, for the first (and last) years of every five-year term.
Aggressive lobbying for the post of mayor(s) started as soon as the results of the MCD polls were announced on Tuesday, and it became clear that the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) will rule all three bodies. BJP is likely to give preference to councillors who have been elected two or more times for appointment to the mayoral posts.
A general body for the MCND will be convened on April 30, in which a mayor will be elected by the new councillors, along with a deputy mayor and standing committee members. The name of two-time councillor Rajni Abbi, who has been the mayor of the unified MCD since April 2011 is already doing the rounds. Abbi has been re-elected councillor from Mukherjee Nagar. Another candidate in the fray is Meera Agarwal, a four-time councillor from Sawan Park in the north.
The MCSD general body meeting would be convened on May 1. Sarita Chaudhary, twice elected from Sangam Nagar, is likely to emerge as a strong mayoral candidate. Chaudhary earlier held important posts like deputy chair of the standing committee and president of the BJP Pradesh Mahila Morcha (BPMM). Savita Gupta, two-time councillor from Amar Colony, is also in the race.
The general body meeting of the MCED will be convened on May 2. The likely contenders for the mayor’s post are two-time councillor Satya Sharma from New Usmanpur constituency, and Lata Gupta, twice councillor from Pandav Nagar.
Meanwhile, in a letter written to the Union Home Minster P Chidambaran, the Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta stated that the Delhi government has given no directions regarding the process of transfer and placement of staff in the three new municipal corporations, nor for cadre-wise seniority, or for allocation of headquarter-staff to all departments, along with payscales and policies pertaining payment of pension to present pensioners.
The letter further states that the Delhi government has given no directions for a policy for promoting unified MCD staff who are looking after current duties in permanent or adhoc capacity, after they are transferred to the newly created municipal corporations. Neither has the Delhi government given any directions vis-a-vis distribution of revenue from toll and other taxes collected centrally. Policies regarding the formation of special and adhoc committees under the three new corporations, or regarding the division of centralised projects like e-governance, are also not in place.
Crucially, the state government is yet to find suitable buildings for them, and offices for the head of departments for the municipal corporations in the South and East, within their jurisdiction. “If the North and the South Delhi municipal corporations are located in the same building, at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre on Minto Road in central Delhi, those living in places like Bawana would still have to come all the way to central Delhi to get their work done, defeating the idea of decentralisation, the very basis of the trifurcation,” the letter states.
Confusion reigns supreme as the BJP has demanded the Home Ministry issue an ordinance for the revival of an unified municipal corporation in place of three. BJP leaders plan to meet Union Home Minister P Chidambaram next week in this regard.
The party has demanded there should be clarity on many other issues, including the role of the Director General of Local Bodies (DLB), which is to function under the Delhi government, and has a director (currently R K Shrivastava) as its head. Gupta said that though the idea of the directorate is to coordinate between the three civic bodies, there are fears it might end up interfering in their functioning instead.
Five-time councillor and BJP leader Subash Arya said, “We are very apprehensive about the role the DLB may end up playing in the three new corporations. It might end up interfering with the rights of the corporations. The DLB may issue directions directly to the three municipal commissioners, without the knowledge of elected councillors.”
Arya said that the newly elected councillors are doubtful their powers will remain the same as under the unified MCD. If their powers are reduced under the guise of trifurcation, it will tantamount to fleecing.
“If an opposition party is in power in the Delhi government, as is now the case, it may very well try to interfere in the normal functioning of the civic bodies via the DLB. We are not against trifurcation per se, but if this decision had to be taken, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit should have taken it two years ago, not two months before the polls. In the run up to the elections, the Congress promised they will give financial assistance to repay MCD’s loans to the tune of `1,800 crore to smoothen the transition to and functioning of the three ne corporations. Now that they have lost in all the three bodies, they say that they will only give `1,100 crore. Many such issues remain unresolved,” said Arya, signing off.