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Published on: Sept. 26, 2022, 2:16 p.m.
MCD polls: gloves off
  • It's believed that at the heart of the municipal crisis in Delhi is the trifurcation of MCD

By Rakesh Joshi. Executive Editor, Business India

With the Bharatiya Janata Party asking its former councillors and local units to be prepared for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls likely to be held in December and start outreach programmes, the gong has been sounded for a bare-knuckled political fight ahead. The BJP has been in power for three terms in the corporation and faces severe anti-incumbency, which the Aam Aadmi Party is seeking to exploit. If the BJP has the resources, the AAP has the dedicated cadres to give it back.

The MCD was trifurcated in 2012 during Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s tenure. The aim was to decentralise and improve the functioning of the civic body. It, however, led to severe fund crunch in the East and North corporations. After the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, was passed, the three civic bodies in the national capital – North, South and East municipal corporations – were reunited.

The MCD polls, originally scheduled for April, were put off hours before the election schedule was to be announced on the plea of delimitation of seats, which have now been reduced from 272 to 250. This step was necessitated following the passage of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, earlier this year. The legislation, passed in the Parliament in March 2022, effected the merger of the three erstwhile corporations and a reduction in the number of councillor seats to ‘not more than 250’. Out of the 250 wards, 42 will be reserved for candidates from the Scheduled Caste category.

The MCD election may not be as glamorous as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election – but could come very near it. The first budget of the unified MCD has been approved at an estimated expenditure of Rs15,276 crore for 2022-23. 

 A battle royale on the cards

Many political observers see the current slugfest between the BJP and AAP, over a host of issues, including Delhi’s liquor policy and raids on and arrests of AAP’s senior leaders. is linked to the MCD elections and Kejriwal’s aggressive forays into Gujarat. With the Arvind Kejriwal-led party planning to throw in whatever it has into the hustings, a battle royale is on the cards.

AAP leaders claim the reason the BJP is scared is that they might lose the election to the MCD, where they have been in power for the last 15 years. Says Raghav Chadda, AAP MP: “This is one of the reasons the BJP did not allow the Delhi municipal elections after the Punjab assembly elections. They postponed the elections on the pretext that all three municipal bodies have to be unified into one. If the BJP loses the MCD elections, then they lose their grip over Delhi because, in the assembly elections, they cannot beat AAP. The outcome will reflect on the Lok Sabha election as well.” Twice in 2014 and 2019, the BJP had swept all the seven seats in the Lok Sabha polls.

  • Many political observers see the current slugfest between the BJP and AAP, over a host of issues, including Delhi’s liquor policy and raids on and arrests of AAP’s senior leaders. is linked to the MCD elections and Kejriwal’s aggressive forays into Gujarat

Many retired bureaucrats who have served in the Delhi administration say that at the heart of the municipal crisis in Delhi is the trifurcation of MCD. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation and South MCD were given 104 wards each, while East MCD had 64 in mostly the trans-Yamuna area.

Due to the demography of Delhi, the South body ended up with the most ‘posh’ colonies – A and B category taxation zones that paid higher property taxes. The North body, on the other hand, got more unauthorised and lower taxation category colonies, which pay less tax, or not at all. This led to a financial crisis for the North and East. 

The split created a structure in which the South ended up earning about 30 per cent of its internal revenue through property tax. For the North corporation, the share of internal revenue through property tax was half that (about 15 per cent), while for the East body, this figure was even lower (say, 9 per cent).

East corporation has some 228,000 taxpayers among 400,000 property owners; North MCD has 335,000 taxpayers among 1 million property owners; and South body has 475,000 taxpayers among its 1.1 million property owners, according to data released by the three MCDs before the last civic body elections in 2017.

The disparity led to delay in payment of salaries. Safai karamcharis, medical staff, healthcare workers, engineers, doctors and nurses have struck work at least 50 times since 2015. Trouble escalated after the AAP came to power in the Assembly in 2015 and the BJP returned to the MCDs. The BJP has constantly blamed the AAP for not paying its dues, while the latter blames corruption in the MCDs for the financial crisis.

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