The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has passed a resolution to change the phone numbers — provided to its councillors at the beginning of their term — from official to private. In a recent Standing Committee meeting, both the BJP and the Congress agreed that before the code of conduct comes into force, the numbers should be made private “for the councillors to continue being in touch with their electorate.”
This is the first time that councillors have asked to retain numbers they have used during their tenure. In the past, councillors would submit their sim cards back to the MCD and the numbers would be surrendered. The move was unanimously passed in the Standing Committee by both the Congress and BJP.
General secretary of the BJP state unit and SDMC councillor, Ashish Sood, told The Indian Express that the numbers become widely circulated and most of the people in their constituency contact the councillor on the corporation-issued number.
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“Therefore, when these numbers are returned as soon as the code of conduct is imposed, that line of communication snaps,” Sood stated.
As soon as the code of conduct for the election is imposed, all government benefits given to the councillors are withdrawn, including phones and cars. According to sources, though the elected representatives are supposed to return benefits provided by the corporation much earlier, “they usually return it during the time of nomination.”
The proposal to retain the numbers will be implemented from January next year and general elections to the three municipal corporations are likely to take place in April 2017.
Leader of the Opposition, Congress’ Farhad Suri, said, “The numbers issued to the councillor becomes a constituency number and while the councillors have their private numbers, the corporation-issued number is the one that gets circulated, with which we contact the electorate and they contact us. With this order coming into place, that connectivity is lost right before the elections.”
The numbers were issued to the councillors when they took office in 2012. The last three digits of the numbers represent the ward number of the councillor, making it easy for the constituents to remember them. “These are usually pre-paid numbers, and the bill, up to a certain amount, is paid by the civic body,” said officials.