Confident of Congress’ victory in the MCD elections despite its loss in recent elections, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit believes the BJP has constantly used trifurcation of the MCD as an excuse to cover up its own failure in properly ruling the civic bodies. In an exclusive interview to indianexpress.com, Dikshit asserted political will is required to solve the problem, which both BJP and the AAP who rule Delhi lack. She also said that the national capital has not witnessed a single major change during the last ten years of BJP’s rule in the MCD.
How challenging are the MCD elections for the Congress considering the fact that the party lost badly in last Delhi Assembly elections and the recent polls?
Well, the Congress is fighting the elections with great confidence and one of the reasons is that the MCD has been with the BJP for last ten years and 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. There is no cleanliness, workers are not getting salaries on time, they (MCD) are short of money all the time. So the administration, which a municipality should be doing, especially when it happens to be the capital city of the country, they have failed in that.
Delhi witnessed numerous changes during your tenure. But you are always criticised for trifurcating the MCD. You have said it was done to improve the efficiency of the MCD, but it has not happened. How do you respond to allegations that it was done without proper planning?
These are not allegations. They are just excuses. MCD was trifurcated after a lot of thinking and lot of interaction. It was done because one commissioner was not considered enough to look after this huge city. So it was thought that if it was divided into three areas, the concentration of work will be much better just like a small body is looking after the Luteyns’ Delhi. If they have not been able to avail the opportunity and function properly, the fault lies with the BJP.
But what about the allegation of not having a proper plan for the trifurcation and revenue distribution?
Of course there was a proper plan in place. How can the government take such a big step without proper planning. These are just excuses they are making. When we were in government, whenever the MCD required funds, we always gave them in advance. It could have been adjusted over the years, but it was always given, never refused so that these workers do not suffer and the citizens of Delhi get the service they deserved.
But you cannot deny that East Delhi has been under constant revenue crisis due to lesser source of income. Their workers are always on strike. And the ruling BJP alleges that proper tax structure were not considered before trifurcation and due to which it is suffering.
If they think there was no proper revenue distribution, and they had better ideas to improve it, they should have gone to the state government which they used to do when we were in power. As I said, we always used to help the MCD during our rule. Again I will say these are excuses for not being able to do something. What about looking at yourself? What are you doing? Are you fulfilling your mandate or not? If you are doing good work, I am sure everyone will be happy to help you. Are you even using your funds that are there? How can they be so short of funds?
Do you agree that there is a power tussle between the BJP and AAP and that is adding to the crisis?
Let me tell you there was never a conflict when we were in power. We always helped them out. But they have to work. Every time they came to us we adjusted with them. It is in our interest to see if Delhi looks clean and nice as much as it was in their interest. But now I don’t think they are conscious about their responsibilities and they do not want to fulfil them with the kind of commitment they should.
What reforms do you wish to bring if Congress is voted to power in the MCD?
The MCD is the body which has lots of corporators. It is they who have to come with new ideas, look after their areas and raise issues. The basic which the municipality is supposed to provide to its citizens, they should be done. And we will do that.
Kejriwal has promised waiving house tax if he comes to power
Where is he going to generate money from? May be he will get votes but how will he run the MCD. It will become even worse than it is today.
How do you see the allegations of EVM tampering by Arvind Kejriwal
Kejriwal has a style of making baseless allegations. As far as allegations of EVM tampering is considered, it’s a perception which is created by the losers. We shifted to EVMs because it was a modern system. If there is fault a committee will be set up to look into it. Accusing the EC straightway because you have lost is not right.”
Finally, can there be a smooth governance in Delhi despite three centres having different parties in power (Centre, Delhi govt and MCD)?
There should be no power tussle. The responsibility of the government of India, government of Delhi and the municipality are clearly defined. They know what they should do. Now if they are not willing to do it and they don’t think that it is their responsibility to do it, then I am afraid there is nothing to say. All I can say is use your fund, clean up Delhi. Make it look different.