With the Aam Aadmi Party releasing its manifesto for the MCD elections, the stage is now set for a fierce battle on Sunday – the polling day. Looking back at the manifestos of the three major parties in the fray, it is clear that all – the AAP, the BJP and the Congress – are hinging on ‘house tax’ as their trump card.
Even as 26% to 30% of the revenue earned by the three municipal corporations comes from property taxes, the AAP has promised to finish the system altogether and even waive off all dues. The Congress said it would exempt senior citizens and those who have not rented out their properties, while the BJP plans not to increase the taxes.
The sop indicates it is the rich whom the parties are trying to woo the most. While one-third of the Capital’s population lives in slums and illegal colonies, 69% houses in the city are actually owned by Delhiites. For AAP, this is crucial as it feels confident about winning the one-third population — its key vote bank — and now it had to reach out to the house-owning voters. Naturally, after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement, the other two parties too jumped into the wagon.
- House Tax: Total exemption and pending arrears to be waived off
- Corruption free MCD: Building plan approval exemption up to 500 sq m, certificates/licences online, no mutation and conversion fees
- Sanitation: Garbage-free Delhi in 1 year, No landfills by 2019, dengue and chikungunya free Delhi
- Slum dwellers: Approval of layout plans to regularise unauthorised colonies
- Education: More teachers, bring dropouts back to school, reading rooms for students, School Management Committees
- Unorganised sector: Implement town vending committees, regularise weekly haats, new stands for autos, charging points for e-ricks
- Health: Free medicines and lab tests, world-class hospitals and dispensaries
- RWA: Approval from RWAs for development works, payment only after certification by people
- House Tax: No new taxes
- Corruption free MCD: An ombudsman to keep a check on corruption in MCDs
- Sanitation: Waste from landfill sites will be used in highway construction
- Slum dwellers: Houses to slum dwellers, solar lights at slum clusters through ‘Surya Jyoti Yojna’.
- Education: Tie-up with private schools to provide better education, English education from nursery onwards, CCTVs
- Unorganised sector: Social security card to avail insurance, education, and health facilities
- Health: Health cards for all. Nutritious food and medical facilities for pregnant women, newborns
- RWA: Meeting with the RWAs every month and will listen to their problems.
- House Tax: Lower tax rates and no new tax
- Corruption free MCD: Time-bound delivery of services by issuing a charter of civic services. Failing employees to be fined Rs 250 per day
- Sanitation: Will shut the landfill sites by treating it and flattening the area around the site
- Slum dwellers: All slums would be developed through in-situ rehabilitation into housing complexes
- Education: An empowered group comprising former educationists, scholars to control dropout rate in schools
- Unorganised sector: Health and accidental insurance cover, unemployment allowance and other benefits. Five lakh street vendors to be given licences
- Health: Facilities such as laboratory, x-ray will be augmented within 3 months at primary health centres
- RWA: Will revive Bhagidari scheme, empower RWAs to levy surface parking charges
One thing that is different in the AAP’s manifesto is that it has made it similar to its ‘Outcome budget’ by setting a deadline for many of its promises. It says it would make Delhi garbage free in one year and that the city would be dengue and chikungunya free by 2020 among other things. The Congress, like AAP, has also promised to shut landfill sites. But the latter has set 2019 as the target while the former states how it will be done.
On the financial crisis plaguing the MCDs, Delhi state unit president Manoj Tiwari said, “The party will develop a mechanism for direct flow of funds from the Centre to municipal corporations.”
On the other hand, AAP convener Kejriwal said it would turn the MCDs into a profit making bodies in just a year’s time. When asked how he aims to do it, he said, “I will give you four-five examples and you will be convinced that MCDs can be made profitable. Delhi government made a flyover of Rs 3.25 crore near Pitampura in Rs 2 crore and that too before time. MCD is making one Rani Jhansi flyover since 2006, they have crossed their budget and are still building it. The attitude needs to change.”
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken has promised to solve the issue by ensuring a collection of Rs 1,600 crore annual from toll tax. “Besides, we would control the parking mafia, push outdoor advertisement and effectively issue municipal bonds. Giving licences to street vendors will also generate Rs 600 per year,” he said.
The parties have also approached the health sector quite differently. While the BJP manifesto talks of providing health cards to people, the AAP, like in Delhi government set-ups, has promised to make all tests and medicines free in MCD dispensaries and hospitals. The Congress preferred to focus on augmenting facilities already available in the city’s Primary Health Centres (PHCs).
While the issues in MCD polls remain the same, the three parties have ideated completely different approaches in dealing with the problems of sanitation, finances and civic infrastructure. It would be interesting to see whose manifesto appeals the most to Delhi and how much of it is actually implemented.