The BJP promised a slew of measures in its manifesto for the Delhi municipal elections released on Sunday, including no new taxes, complete digitisation of government services and elimination of mandatory approval for residential construction on plots of up to 500 sq yards. It promised food at a subsidised rate – a thali for R10 under the Deen Dayal Antodeya Rasoi Yojana.
Releasing the 41-point manifesto, Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said the party will develop a mechanism for direct flow of funds from the Centre to municipal corporations.
“Arvind Kejriwal is blackmailing people by putting posters in the city that says your electricity bill will increase if BJP comes to power,” Tiwari said, highlighting that no new tax would be imposed by the corporation in the next five years.
The tax relief promise is being seen as a move to counter the AAP’s electoral promise of abolishing house tax. The AAP government and the BJP-ruled municipal corporations have been locked over the past two years in allegations and counter-allegations related to adequate fund disbursal in the wake of repeated strikes by municipal staff over delays in salary payments.
Commenting on the BJP manifesto, Delhi AAP convener Dilip Pandey said, “This shows that the other parties are now following us. We will be happy if Delhiites actually benefit from these freebies announced ahead of elections. Even our purpose is not to win elections but reforms for the welfare of the public. In the same direction, we have opened a canteen in LNJP hospital which serves food for R10 per plate on a pilot basis.”
Among other electoral promises was cow protection, with the manifesto saying assistance will be provided to organisations working for the purpose.
To woo people from the north-eastern states, the BJP proposed to set up special grievance redress cells and for purvanchalis, it promised the creation of more chhath ghats. A similar exercise is being done by the AAP government which provided R20 crore in the budget for construction of these ghats. However, the BJP manifesto did not elaborate on what was intended to be done by forming a dedicated unit for people from the north-eastern states.
Apart from these measures, special emphasis will be on improvement of sanitation, education, and health facilities. The party also provided assurances on night cleaning of markets, waste-to-energy plants to ease the burden on sanitary landfill sites, and installation of fixed compactor stations for garbage disposal.
Experts said promises such as no new taxes would not help civic bodies, reeling under acute paucity of funds, and if services are to be improved, revenue augmentation is necessary. KS Mehra, a retired IAS officer and former commissioner of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi, said in a healthy municipal corporation, 50% generation of funds comes from taxes and charges imposed by the body and if no new taxes were imposed then questions should be raised as to how the party planned to perk up municipal services.
He asked with welfare schemes such as food at subsidised rates and increments in monthly pensions being disbursed by the corporations to senior citizens, widows, and disabled, how the would corporations arrange funds.
“Whenever a hike in property tax and imposition of congestion charges or other taxes like professional tax were proposed during my tenure in MCD, they were turned down by the deliberative wing. But this is not a good sign for municipal corporations. For better and quality services, adequate funds should be made available to municipal corporations or let them generate these themselves reasonably,” he said.
Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee said the BJP fulfilled just six of 44 promises it made in 2012. “They are making tall promises but there is no road map on what they will do to make it possible. The whole manifesto is very vague.”
The BJP has incorporated several promises from its previous manifestos such as multi-level parking lots, ready-mix concrete roads, and CCTV cameras in schools, etc. It has added several initiatives that are already under process such as online payments for various services, unique property identification cards, door-to-door garbage collection, restrooms for safai karamcharis, and measures for cow protection.