Citizen groups: Don’t delay BBMP elections

NGO and RWA groups ask for state Government to facilitate speedy BBMP elections, better administration and active citizen participation in the selection of urban local bodies.

Demanding speedy BBMP elections, better administration and active citizen participation in the selection of urban local bodies, Namma Bengaluru Foundation and Bengaluru Residents Associations Confederation Ensemble-BRACE (a confederation of the more than 1200 resident welfare associations) today urged the State Government to uphold their constitutional right to periodically elect local representative and not delay the BBMP elections any further. Placing forth a citizens charter of demands, they reiterated that the Government’s move to deny Bengaluru an elected council is against the spirit of the 74th Amendment of the Constitution.

Also read: BBMP Elections: A Backgrounder

Charter of demands to the State Government

a) An elected urban local body is constitutionally mandated by the 74th Amendment of the Constitution and this move to deny an elected council is against the very spirit of the 74th amendment of the constitution.

b) Local Self Governments are the grounds for finding future statesmen. Given the keen interest of the youth in politics in the recent years, the BBMP elections should be seen as an opportunity for finding such leaders.

c) There are a series of amendments required in various legislations that govern Urban Local bodies. The Government of Karnataka should work on empowering the ULBs by suitably modifying Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 and Metropolitan Planning Committee Rules 2014. 

The 74th Constitutional Amendment was enacted to devolve powers to the Urban Local Bodies and to strengthen citizen participation at the local level. Local governments reflect the will of the people either by direct individual participation. However, the recent turn of events in Bengaluru is a dangerous trend in our democracy, whereby State Governments delay election to Municipal Corporations and in the interim period, administer Urban Local Bodies through the Administrators appointed by them. The manner in which the State government issued a Show Cause Notice to the BBMP Council on the basis of the one member Rajendra Kataria Committee report, the promulgation of the ordinance to trifurcate BBMP and the State Government’s intention to dissolve the council at the far end of its term, is indicative of an intent to delay the election process.  The Kataria Committee report has not even been made public and this opaque process has led to widespread citizen discontent.

Even if the BBMP is plagued by irregularities and Corruption, it is the prerogative of the citizens to vote or vote out their representative.  The timing of the report, along with the reasons stated for dissolution completely lacks objectivity. The manner in which the State government has gone ahead with the ordinance, despite widespread opposition from the council members, is a direct assault on democracy.

Dissolution of the BBMP is not a solution to the chronic maladministration. There are larger issues, due to which, Bengaluru is being governed by an overstrained, inefficient and corrupt governance machinery. It is more important to study and address these issues. The BBMP Restructuring committee, in its second interim report has recommended that 5-8 municipalities should be set up, instead of one single corporation for Bengaluru (Reference). The findings need further discussion, especially in terms of the distribution of manpower and financial resources. 

The 74th Amendment envisaged institutions like the Metropolitan Planning Committee, Ward Committee and area sabhas to strengthen local governance. However, existing institutions and the State have shown great resistance towards empowering these constitutionally mandated institutions. 

The Constitution provides for the constitution of a Metropolitan Planning Committee in every metropolitan area for developing a draft development plan for the metropolitan area as a whole. However, the MPC was constituted almost two decades after the 74th Amendment in Bengaluru. Even after being constituted last year, the MPC was not even met once. In this regard, the State should amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 and the Bangalore Metropolitan Planning Committee Rules, 2014 to strengthen the MPC. The State should strengthen Ward Committees and suitably amend the KMC Act, to remove the veto powers of the Chairperson. For a truly representative polity at the grassroots level, the area sabhas should be set up.

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of Namma Bengaluru Foundation stated,“It should be acknowledged that the governance deficit cannot be merely attributed to BBMP’s unwieldy size. By doing so, the fundamental reasons for poor governance are being entirely missed. Until the issue of administrative incompetence, cronyism, understaffing and financial devolution aren’t adequately dealt with, the whole exercise of BBMP restructuring would be futile.”

CN Kumar, member, BRACE said, “Timely elections to ULBs is a Constitutional mandate which can be postponed in very extraordinary circumstances. No such Circumstances present themselves today and therefore elections should take place at the scheduled time.”

Anand Sirur, President, Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative (MSI) further added “It is the citizen’s prerogative to pass a judgement on the performance of the Corporation in the last 5 years. The election is a referendum on the performance of Corporators. Citizens have the right to re-elect and support Corporators who have worked in their interest and vote-out those who have failed to perform.”

Ravindranath Guru, member of BRACE said “Increasingly, politics has become an area of interest for the youth/ younger generations and people from varied walks of life have chosen to involve themselves in public service, as the Delhi Assembly elections have shown. These new aspirants must be given an opportunity to contest and participate in the democratic process. As the previous experience shows, Bengaluru was administered by an Administrator for three years, in the absence of a Urban Local body. In light of the same, the youth should not be denied an opportunity to be a part of the electoral process.”

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