Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia reaffirmed on Sunday the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s promise to do away with residential property tax and arrears if his party wins the April 23 municipal corporation elections in the Capital.
The AAP’s main rivals, the BJP which rules the three municipal corporations, and the Congress, criticized the tax waiver announcement that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made on Saturday.
The move cannot be implemented without Parliament amending the Delhi municipal corporation act, the parties said.
Sisodia countered the criticism at a media briefing in his home, saying his government has done due diligence before making the announcement.
“For abolishing house tax in Delhi we do not need to go to Parliament. It was before 1993 that amendments were made to the act. After that, amendments and even the last one in 2011 were made without going to Parliament,” he said.
Several amendments to the 1957 act, which governs the municipal corporations of Delhi, were made after 1993without seeking the Parliament’s approval, he asserted and asked people not to believe “rumours spread to mislead them”.
The tax sop in a city of more than 20 million people is viewed as the AAP’s attempted masterstroke to dislodge the BJP, which has been ruling the corporations for the past decade, and keep the Congress at bay in the high-stakes civic polls.
The AAP rivals warned that the move to waive off property tax would put an additional burden on the cash-strapped corporations, which have been struggling to pay staff wages, triggering labour unrest and civic crisis.
Property tax accounted for a significant share of the Rs 8,351-crore total revenue the corporations collected in 2016. The three civic agencies earned Rs 1,371 crore — with the south corporation earning the most at Rs 775 crore, and the east getting the least at Rs 192 crore.
Sisodia said the AAP government will fulfill its promise, as it has done before for its pledges such as power and water subsidy to the people.
He called the BJP the “Bharatiya Jumla Party”, accusing it of going back on its promises. He alleged that the BJP is worried that the waiver would put an end to a property tax racket in the corporations.
“They are troubled because abolishing house tax will end the middleman and corruption in the civic bodies. The tax has given rise to the inspector raj system, which will be finished if AAP comes to power,” he said.