With the memories of stinking filth and garbage crisis fresh in mind, people in the national capital are all set for the MCD elections. And blaming rivals for the recent garbage mess, the parties in fray for civic polls are confident of victory. “Since the BJP has more councillors in the MCD, funds for the civic bodies were intentionally not released on time to create panic. They did this to make people suffer. We are fighting against this and we are confident that we will win against all odds. We will defeat both Congress and AAP,” said Manoj Tiwari, Delhi BJP chief.
Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, however, rubbished Tiwari’s claim saying the BJP cannot accuse the state government for its own failure. “MCD has been with the BJP for last ten years and in those years nothing has happened that could improve Delhi. Delhi is in shambles. Whatever is within the purview of the MCD, there is total failure,” said Sheila Dikshit.
Making debut in the MCD elections, Swaraj India also holds the ten-year rule of the BJP responsible for the crisis in the MCD. “MCD is the den of corruption. The ten-year rule has been terrible. You ask anyone and he will say how the MCD has performed. Some call it Maha Corrupt Department, some call it Dengue Chikengunneya Department. There is no vision,” said Yogendra Yadav.
The civic body which has been under BJP rule for a decade is undergoing huge revenue crisis. Frequent strikes by sanitation staff is a testimony to this. The MCD came into existence in 1958. Since then the civic body has been looking after 272 wards spread in 12 zones. But in 2012, the Congress government trifurcated the MCD into three smaller municipal corporations. And that seems to have triggered the crisis.
“There was no proper planning over revenue sharing before trifurcation. For example the East Municipal Corporation has lesser source of revenue than the South Municipal Corporation. All this was not taken into consideration properly before dividing the MCD into three parts,” said Apula Singh, Research Associate, Urban Governance.
Former Mayor of the unified MCD Rajni Abbi also believes that trifurcation was suicidal and it only added to the expenditure of the MCD. “I had consistently said that trifurcation would be very suicidal for Delhi because the nature of the city is such that its population and revenue collection are very lopsided. For example east Delhi, it’s very thickly populated and revenue sources are very less. On the other hand south Delhi has posh colonies and lot of revenue can be generated from their due to higher tax slab. Secondly trifurcation added to unnecessary expenditure. Having three mayors, three commissioners and staff that increased the expenditure.”
Dikshit, under whose rule the MCD was divided, however, rejects Abbi’s chrages. “Off course proper planning were there before trifurcation. How can a government divide the civic body without planning for revenue. These are just excuses that the BJP is making for its own failure,” said the former chief minister.
Experts, however, believe that there is need for new tax reforms to make MCD profitable. But the politicians feel raising taxes may irk the voters. In fact some has promised doing away with property taxes. “Revenue generation by the MCD has completely stagnated in last ten years. Not even one third of properties are captured in the data base. There are so many unauthorised colonies from which income is zero and that is a big issue. Property tax is a big source of revenue. But the potential of the MCD is far more than what the authorities are using. I mean rate of property taxes have not been revised for last 30-40 years,’ said Jasmine Shah, an expert on Urban Governance policies.
Former commissioner of the MCD KS Mehra agrees with Shah and suggest more new taxes to bring MCD out of revenue crisis. “There should be congestion charges. So many vehicles are parked on road for whiole day. Why they shpould not be charged. Even in case of property, the rate rises with the convenience provided by the government. A house near to metro has higher selling price. why should they not pay more taxes,” said Mehra. He added that waiving property tax, as suggested by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is a bad idea.
Will the BJP retain the MCD or debutant AAP and Swaraj India throw a surprise. The mandate will be out on April 27, but whichever party rules the MCD, it must make the capital clean