Hyderabad has been in a tizzy ever since the sudden call for civic polls on December 1, 2020, followed by ballot counting on December 4th and if required, repolling on December 3rd.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is in charge of the civic administration and infrastructure of Hyderabad, which is the 6th most populous urban agglomeration in India and spanning an area of 650 sq km.
The GHMC elections are generally held once in every five years. This time around, they have been advanced by two months, causing strong ripples in some sections of the political parties in the fray. However, the law allows elections for a new Council to be held at any time within a three-month time frame before the expiry of the term of the Council.
Overview of the civic body
GHMC was formed on April 16, 2007, by merging 12 municipalities and 8 gram panchayats with the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH).
Four districts now fall within GHMC limits – Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medchal–Malkajgiri, and Sangareddy. These four districts are further divided into six zones, 30 circles and 150 municipal wards.
From a contestant’s point of view, they need to be aware of the territorial extent of the ward as well as its status: whether it is a General (or) Reserved Ward (reserved for ST, SC, BC and Women). In addition, every candidate must be an elector.
Each municipal ward is headed by a corporator, who is elected by popular vote. As per Section 6(1) of the GHMC Act, 1955, the term of office of ward members elected at an ordinary election shall be 5 years from the date fixed by the State Election Commissioner for the first meeting of the GHMC.
The corporators in turn elect the City Mayor who is the titular head of GHMC with a five-year term. In essence, therefore, the Mayor of Hyderabad is indirectly elected by its citizens. The Municipal Commissioner, an IAS officer, is however appointed by the Government of Telangana and is vested with executive powers.
The Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) monitors these civil elections. The State Election Commissioner, C Partha Sarathi had announced the filing of nominations from November 18th to November 20th. This was followed by the nominations’ scrutiny on November 21. While the last date for withdrawing nominations was November 22nd, the updated final list of contesting candidates was also published on the same day.
Key findings of City Systems Survey
The 5th edition of Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 evaluates quality of governance in cities, covering 23 major cities in India across 20 states based on 89 questions. As per this report, “In practice, the municipal body in Hyderabad handles only 10 functions as opposed to the 18 listed in the 74th Constitution Amendment Act (CAA).”
Hyderabad is ranked 8th, with a score of 4.3. It has improved its score by 0.4 points but moved from 5th to 8th position in terms of actual rank. Given below is a comparative ranking based on the City Wise ASICS Scores across the 4 ‘City-Systems’ framework components used for ASICS evaluation:
|City||ASICS 2017 SCORE||ASICS 2017 RANK||UPD||UCR||ELPR ||TAP|
UPD: Urban Planning & Design, UCR: Urban Capacities & Resources, ELPR: Empowered & Legitimate Political Representation, TAP: Transparency, Accountability & Participation
The factors that favoured Hyderabad in the findings include:
- Improvement in per-capita capital expenditure, on average in the last three years (Rs. 1,800).
- Detailed information on schemes and services of GHMC made available online. Only 9 of 23 cities have made such information online.
- Audited annual financial statements made available online. Only 12 of 23 cities have made it available online.
- Undertaken Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) reforms on appointment of internal auditor, credit rating and publishing e-newsletters.
Some of the factors that placed other cities ahead of Hyderabad include:
- Availability of municipal staffing data, internal audit report
- Releasing an Action Taken Report on the State Finance Commission’s recommendation
Parties in the GHMC Elections fray
The election process will be completed 70 days prior to the dissolution of the current GHMC body. In addition to independent candidates, both national and regional parties are in the thick of the contest, with 1122 candidates in all contesting the polls.
75 percent of all the male candidates are ‘businessmen’ while most woman candidates are ‘housewives’. Professionals, students and a daily wage worker are also in the fray.
Reservations that were in effect during the 2016 GHMC elections will continue. Where an executive order was passed in 2015, the Legislative Assembly on October 13th passed the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (amendment) Act, 2020 a to provide 50% reservation for women in Hyderabad civic body among other amendments. As per the TSEC electoral rolls, 541 are women while 581 are men.
To ensure continuity and focused approach towards development, Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao announced that the reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and women would forthwith be fixed for 2 consecutive terms rather than changing the allocation for every election on rotation basis.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress (INC), All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), Communist Party of India (CPI), AIMIM Inquilab, Marxist Communist Party of India (United) (MCPIU), Welfare Party of India (WPI), All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), Bahujan Mukti Party (BMP), India Praja Bandhu Party (IPBP), Indian People’s Congress (IPC), and HINDJP are some of the multi-parties in the battle-royal for the upcoming civic body elections.
Distribution of parties across the GHMC
Post the 2nd GHMC Ordinary Elections in 2016, the GHMC body is represented as follows:
|S.No.||Party Name||Number of Corporators (2016)||Number of Corporators (2009)|
|1||Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)||99||NA|
|2||All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)||44||43|
|3||Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||04||04|
|4||Indian National Congress (INC)||02||52|
|5||Telugu Desam Party (TDP)||01||45|
Key issues in these polls
Sewerage systems, safe drinking water, streetlights, road conditions, stable Hyderabad, COVID-19 measures, one lakh beneficiaries of the two-BHK housing units program, jobs for the youth, the Rythu Bandhu scheme, land encroachment, waste management and amenities for the flood-affected residents are being highlighted as key planks. While the earlier focus was on issues at the city level, closer to the election date, some of the parties are increasingly veering towards citizen concerns at the division level.
Parks, sanitation, drinking water, overflowing drains, lack of pavements and road connectivity, public transport, normalcy from both Coronavirus and floods, and other city infrastructure are concerns for the voter. The Times of India (TOI) had called for a voters’ manifesto.
The top 10 demands from them included:
- Conserve water and control contamination
- Plug rising pollution levels
- Protect parks and lung spaces
- Pump up public transport
- Recarpet and repair roads
- Strengthen drainage system
- Revive and reconnect lake network
- Make localities litter-free
- Reinforce building norms
- Protect heritage buildings
Election code of conduct
Within the GHMC limits, the election code came into immediate effect on November 17, 2020. Candidates cannot spend more than Rs 5 lakh towards election expenditure. An exception to this model code of conduct is the distribution of financial aid of Rs 10,000 as a calamity relief to rain-affected families in the city by the GHMC. The distribution is to be done online and the amount is to be transferred to beneficiaries’ accounts.
TSEC has also included in their hand book, extensive guidelines on ‘corrupt practices and electoral offences’.
How many electors will be voting?
All those who have attained 18 years as on January 1, 2020, and registered as a voter in the current electoral roll of the ward are eligible to exercise their right to vote in the respective polling station in the ward. Mere availability of EPIC is not enough as a basis to vote in elections, but one’s name must be found in the GHMC ward electoral roll.
These Photo Electoral Rolls are based on the lists used for the last Legislative Assembly elections and cannot be changed thereafter, unless ordered by the Electoral Registration Officer of the Assembly Constituency upto the date of election notification of the GHMC.
The voter can check for their eligibility to vote by entering either their name or Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number and the ward name on the ‘tsec.gov.in’ website. They can download their voter’s ID card number, (also known as EPIC number) directly from there. Alternatively, if the elector has voted in the 2018 state assembly elections, they can check eligibility by using the polling station wise electoral rolls. They can also scroll through the ward-wise data of electoral rolls.
Voter slips are being distributed in hard copy across various locations. However, if EPIC is not available, an elector can carry other legally-valid photo identity documents like Aadhar Card, Driving License, Service Identity Card with photo, Bank Passbook with photo, PAN card, etc. to prevent any impersonation.
A voter can identify their polling booth from the TSEC website. GHMC has also designed an Android app titled ‘Know Your Polling Station’ for voters to check the location of their polling station. This app is embedded within the My GHMC app as an option. When the voter enters their name or EPIC number and ward, the app produces a voter slip and polling booth location on Google Maps.
Over 74 lakh registered voters will be exercising their franchise on the D-day. This includes around 38.56 lakh male, 35.46 lakh female, and 669 others category voters.
The voter turnout in 2009 and 2015 GHMC elections was estimated at around 43% and 46% respectively. As per the ASICS City Score for Hyderabad, the voter turnout in the last municipal elections was 45% compared to 52.7% in state elections.
Impact of COVID-19
Considering the prevailing situation due to pandemic, polling this time will be conducted through paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPATs, since these formats require deployment of a large number of people at various levels.
Use of ballot paper also has the concurrence of most of the political parties, following several past litigations regarding the use of EVMs. There is also a Supreme Court order pertaining to the use of paper ballots this time around. The Election Commission is also experimenting with facial recognition In 150 polling stations.
Postal Ballot is available for those who applied for the option among the
In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, e-voting was announced on a pilot basis for senior citizens, polling officials, and COVID-19 patients to vote remotely using their mobile phones. If it had been implemented, it would have been a first in the country, making it another distinction for the TSEC.
However, TSEC has since dropped the idea of allowing e-voting as the entire e-voting process has to be entrusted to one person (RO). The commission feels returning officers (ROs) have not been sufficiently trained to ensure foolproof e-voting. It also involves major coordination between the computer operator and the voter sitting in two different locations. The state’s IT department had also asked TSEC for more time to deliver the technology but there was a time constraint in this case.
As per the State Election Commissioner C. Parthasarathi, “The TSEC found itself unable to implement e-voting without a significant amendment to the GHMC Act as the current Act only talks about ballot papers and EVMs, and has nothing about online voting. The Assembly session had concluded last month and the government wasn’t keen to amend the Act in the form of an ordinance.”
There were also some fears expressed regarding political parties influencing electors opting for online voting.
In the 2016 elections, 1,400 people were accommodated across each polling station. However, considering the pandemic situation, 1,700 stations have been increased in these elections to accommodate a reduced number of just 800 to 1,000 voters per location.
Special arrangements made
The polling timing is from 7 am to 6 pm on December 1st. Officials deployed on election duty have been instructed to ensure facilities for specially-abled and senior citizens. Ramps with wheelchairs and volunteers to operate them would also be provided at these locations.
Electors above 80 years and women with children in their arms will be allowed direct entry inside the polling booths without having to wait in a queue. Additionally, elderly persons will be taken to polling stations with PPE kits after 6 or 7 p.m. to exercise their franchise. As per GHMC sources, providing vehicle transportation for voters directly or indirectly from a polling station will not be construed as an offence.
A ‘Hand Book for Contesting Candidates (Where Ballot papers are used)’ has been Issued by TSEC for the Elections To Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation 2020. As per this hand book, the Commission has put in place a system of ‘Vulnerability Mapping’ to counter threat and intimidation to the voters, particularly the voters from vulnerable sections of the society.
Micro Observers will be deployed at polling stations to address factors which contribute to vulnerability of voters, such as domination of one social group over others, inaccessibility of the area, Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC)-EPIC non availability, previous history of violence, etc.
Videography of critical events will also be made during the process of electioneering and on the day of elections, taking into account previous history of booth capturing, other malpractices, the general law and order situation and the likelihood of electoral offences, to name a few. There will also be police bandobast across all polling stations.
Over 2,700 polling stations are identified as sensitive, hyper-sensitive and critical stations, and arrangements are being made accordingly. Among these, 257 are in the critical category, 1004 in the hypersensitive category, and 1439 in the sensitive category.
Polling station details
The final list of 9,101 polling stations across 150 wards has been announced by the GHMC Election Authority and the Municipal Commissioner, Lokesh Kumar D.S.
Kondapur division has the highest number at 99, while RC Puram division has the least number with 33 polling stations. Over 48,000 polling personnel will be deployed across them. In addition, there will be flying squads, micro-observers, static surveillance teams, returning officers, security personnel, and other authorities who will be monitoring the proceedings. Overall, close to 1.5 lakh people are expected to provide ground support across the city.
The polling stations list is available in the office of Deputy Commissioner, Ward Office, Revenue Divisional Office, Tahsildar Office concerned and other offices specified by the State Election Commission.
All you need to know:
To know the ward-wise Urban Representative: https://tsec.gov.in/knowPRUrban.se
To view the Polling Stations list: https://www.ghmc.gov.in/Polling_Stations.aspx
To access Report on Final Contesting Candidates including Unanimously Elected Candidates: https://tsec.gov.in/home.do
To know the 30 DRC Centers in respect of (150) Wards of GHMC: https://www.ghmc.gov.in/Documents/DRC_Centers.pdf
To visit GHMC Website: https://www.ghmc.gov.in/
The Election Commission has also set up a round-the-clock complaint-cum-call centre on 040-35117551 at its office in Masab Tank to receive complaints and suggestions with regard to the GHMC elections.
As at least 20 assembly constituencies fall under the GHMC limits, this civic poll is being treated as mini elections since the outcome is indicative of the mood of the voters in the state. Hyderabad has turned into a colourful battle-ground with star campaigners from various parties converging in the city and holding large road shows and promising multi-sops to woo voters.
With an annual budget of ₹5,600 crore proposed for the financial year 2021-22 and about 32% of the estimated income expected from property tax (₹1,850 crore), the GHMC elections have also found unprecedented coverage in national news.
The ASICS 2017 report states that the voter turnout for municipal elections in India is lower than that for Assembly elections. While the municipal poll campaigns in Hyderabad this year have seen very high energy pitches, with well-designed manifestos and sharpened arsenal across the parties, it is hoped that the evolved and actively engaged citizenry will exercise their franchise to take a resolute and pragmatic decision.