The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, aimed at unifying the three municipal corporations of Delhi into a “single, integrated and well-equipped entity”, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. Excerpts from a heated debate, in which 20 members participated:
Amit Shah, Home Minister
Moving the motion for consideration of the Bill, Shah said, “Delhi Municipal Corporation caters to 95 per cent share of civic amenities of the entire [National] Capital Territory Region… Being the Capital Territory region, President House, Prime Minister residence, all Central Secretariat offices and embassies are located here… In view of this, it is important that all three corporations of Delhi discharge their responsibilities of providing civic amenities.”
Questioning the division of Delhi Municipal Corporation into North, South and East Delhi wings, Shah said, “What were the reason and motive for the division?… It might have been done with political reasons.”
The minister also accused the Delhi government of “stepmotherly treatment” to the three corporations. “I am quite hopeful that after passage of this Bill, conditions in Delhi will improve to a large extent. Besides this, the government has no motive behind this,” he said.
Ramesh Bidhuri, BJP
The MP from South Delhi said the trifurcation had been done in 2011-12 by the Congress government “without thinking of the resources of revenue for the North and East MCDs”, and “to protect the Congress’s dynasties and keep away poor people who had reached senior positions in the corporation including the post of mayor”.
On the Opposition’s allegation that the BJP is afraid of holding the Delhi civic elections, Bidhuri said: “(BJP) did not fear abrogating Article 370, did not fear anyone in building the Shri Ram Temple, will it fear the MCD elections?”
Also dismissing the charge that the BJP was apprehensive regarding the Delhi results, BJP MP from Godda, Jharkhand, Nishikant Dubey accused the Opposition of mingling with “ultra-Leftists”.
Manoj Tiwari, BJP
The MP from North East Delhi called the Bill “a gift of humanity to the people of Delhi”. “Those who have not (ventured) out of the NDMC area in Delhi, they would not understand the importance of this Bill.”
Chandrani Murmu, BJD
While supporting the Bill, among the few Opposition MPs to do so, the Keonjhar (ST), Odisha, representative said: “The Central and state governments should not try to encroach upon the powers of a municipal corporation because the day-to-day needs of people can only be fulfilled by elected corporations.”
Manish Tewari, Congress
The Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, MP said the Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament, and that if any House could do it, “it is the Delhi Assembly”.
On the government citing a resource gap among the three corporations as one of the justifications for the Bill, Tewari said the Centre could have met this with a grant to the Delhi government.
Tewari also asked which data the government would use for delimitation, since the Bill proposes to change the total number of wards. “Will the municipal corporation not be constituted in Delhi in the next two years?” he asked.
Tewari also raised the issue of autonomy of institutions, particularly those that conduct polls. On March 9, the Delhi State Election Commission had called a press conference to announce the dates for MCD elections when, hours to go, it put off the same after being informed that the government planned to bring a Bill to merge the three corporations.
Supriya Sule, NCP
The Baramati, Maharashtra, MP regretted that while the Home Minister had promised an “academic discussion”, “both the speakers from the Treasury Benches have only spoken politics”.
“If they think unification is a solution, and if it is for betterment, so be it… No harm in trying it… But the point is about the timing of it.”
Sule also asked why the debate over the Bill was not happening in the Delhi Assembly. “Why are we debating these municipal issues here?… We are here to discuss issues of the country and not to discuss corporations.”
With the NCP part of the government in Maharashtra, Sule expressed concern that there is “no cooperative federalism”. “It is becoming lesser and lesser… There is excessive centralisation of power.”
M.P. Abdussamad Samadani, IUML
The MP from Malappuram, Kerala, also talked about the Centre’s growing powers. “The amendment Bill… I do not think is a move in accordance with justice. It is an attempt to (put) states and the governed Union territories at the charity of the Central Government.”
In particular, Samadani talked about the provision in the Bill regarding appointment of a Special Officer to manage the administration of the municipal corporation during the transition period. “Appointing an officer, giving a kind of speciality, is no doubt a clear interference in the affairs of the elected body.”
A M Ariff, CPM
Also an MP from Kerala (Alappuzha constituency), Ariff said: “Through this Bill, the BJP government has shown how the democratic process can be twisted and distorted at the cost of federal principles… Have we ever heard of a statutory body like the State Election Commission being dictated to by the Union Government to cancel a press meet called for announcing elections to a local body? Have we ever heard of a Bill being introduced to completely change the structure of a local body on the verge of holding elections? Ironically, under this government we need to expect much more than this.”
Ariff pointed to the lack of clarity over the delimitation process too. “If the government desires to use the upcoming Census data as the basis, then when will the (MCD) elections be held?”
Saugata Roy, Mahua Moitra, TMC; Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress
The concerns of the three West Bengal MPs — Roy from Dum Dum; Chowdhury from Baharampur; Moitra from Krishnanagar – also related to federalism.
“It seems that the government wants to take control of everything… What was the hurry to bring this Bill when after a month elections were to be held?” Roy asked.
Moitra called the Bill in violation of Article 243U of the Constitution vis-à-vis the delay in conducting municipal polls in Delhi, and said: “I urge the Minister not to overstep your boundaries. Please take back this Bill and send it to where it belongs, namely, the state Assembly.”
Chowdhury also said it was only the Delhi Assembly that was “constitutionally mandated” to legislate on the reorganisation of municipal corporations, adding: “The crux of this legislative document clearly indicates that this government (is) hell bent on encroaching upon the jurisdiction of the state, while undermining cooperative federalism.”
Veeraswamy Kalanidhi, DMK
The MP from Chennai North, Tamil Nadu, questioned the urgency to bring this Bill. “This is a kind of a semi-emergency,” Kalanidhi said.
Krishna Devarayalu Lavu, YSRCP
The MP from Narasaraopet, Andhra Pradesh, equated the move to merge the three corporations with the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. “This is the second time we are re-drawing the maps in the last three years in my tenure. The first time was when the state of Jammu and Kashmir was trifurcated into two Union Territories… Do not make decisions in haste and threaten the sanctity of the federal structure,” Lavu urged.
Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena
Linking the decision to AAP win in the recent Punjab Assembly elections, the MP from Mumbai South, Maharashtra, said: “We are overriding the powers of the Assembly. We should not do it.” He also wondered why the government proposed to reduce the number of MCD wards from 272 to 250 when the population of NCR is increasing.
Kunwar Danish Ali, BSP
Ali, the MP from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, said the government continues to attack the federal structure of the country. Also referring to J&K, he said that the same template as in the Union Territory, where elections had been held up citing delimitation, was being repeated in Delhi. He also asked why the BJP was “afraid” of civic polls in Delhi when it had just won four states.
Neither supported, nor opposed
Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress
Attacking AAP, the MP from Ludhiana, Punjab, demanded an inquiry into the money spent by the party in the recent Assembly elections in Punjab.
Home Minister’s Reply
Rejecting the Opposition’s charge that the Bill encroached upon the federal structure of the Constitution and rights of states, Shah said the Centre had brought in this legislation because Delhi is a Union Territory. It could not bring such a Bill in Gujarat or Bengal, he said, adding that the MCD Bill was “completely constitutional”. “An attempt is being made to spread a big misconception, I reject it entirely.”
Referring to Opposition members’ reference to elections in J&K, Shah said these would be held after delimitation. “Hamein Rashtrapati shashan lane ka koi shauk nahin hai (We have not made a hobby of imposing President’s rule),” he said.
The minister also dismissed claims that the BJP was afraid of facing the MCD elections. “BJP workers don’t need to be afraid of anyone. We have formed governments in four states and we have full confidence that we will win under the leadership of Modi ji wherever elections are held.”
He said it was Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi who had been afraid of facing elections, and had therefore declared Emergency.