AAP, BJP tussle as MCDs ask central govt for funds
As the national Capital approaches the crucial municipal elections that are due in April next year, a war of words has ensued over the BJP-ruled MCDs approaching the Centre for financial assistance to tide over the severe financial crisis that the three civic bodies are going through.
Having failed to pay salaries to their staff, who have gone on repeated strikes in protest, the civic body leaders approached the Union finance ministry two weeks ago, seeking financial assistance that the Centre extends to municipalities in all states. However, the request has been denied with the finance ministry clarifying that the stipulated fund of Rs488 per person per annum is given to the municipal bodies in states, and not the union territories.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which is the main opposition in all three corporations, has targeted the BJP, saying if the civic bodies in Ghaziabad and Gurugram can get the funds, the Centre should not ignore Delhi and Chandigarh.
A senior finance ministry officer who asked not to be named said there was no provision to allocate financial assistance to the municipal bodies in the union territories. “Every year, we release these funds to all the state governments for the development of municipal bodies there. But since the municipal bodies in the union territories are not eligible, we can’t allocate unless the eligibility conditions are amended,” he said.
Senior AAP leader and the party’s MCD in-charge, Durgesh Pathak, said the MCD office-bearers must ask the Centre that how the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) – the civic body of Mumbai – is different from those in the national capital. “The BJP leaders in Delhi lack conviction and determination. Whenever they get an opportunity to interact with union ministers belonging to their party, they just want to please them instead of telling them about the financial distress the municipal bodies are facing. The fact is that Centre has never given a single penny of financial assistance to the MCDs. Besides, the central bodies owe thousand of crores in due to the civic bodies such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has to pay ₹1,300 crore to South MCD, and ₹2,800 crore to North MCD,” he said.
Pathak alleged that the BJP has turned the civic bodies “a white elephant”. “There are a number of areas in which the BJP-ruled MCDs have failed to deliver. The heaps of garbage and mountain-like landfills are common sights in the national capital. In the past few years, the Kejriwal government has proved that it can provide better facilities to Delhiites as it has given free electricity and water to one and all. Even the unauthorised colonies have been given the basic amenities. On the other hand, the employees and pensioners in the three MCDs have to protest for their salaries and dues. The BJP has no roadmap to bring MCDs out of bankruptcy,” he said.
Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta countered that the AAP should ask its Delhi government about the dues that it owes the MCDs, instead of targeting the Centre. “If the AAP says that the Centre is not giving financial assistance to the MCDs, they should better ask this question to the Kejriwal government as such funds are given through the state government,” he said, adding that no requisition for this fund has been made by the Delhi government.
BK Oberoi, chairman of the standing committee in South MCD, said municipalities do not believe in “hoodwinking the people by offering freebies”. “We are exploring avenues to meet our expenses. As far as getting dues from DDA or paying rent to North MCD are concerned, everything is being done in accordance with the law,” he said.
The Congress, which has only 31 members of the total 215 councillors in the three corporations, accused both the ruling BJP and AAP, for the sorry state of affairs in the municipal bodies.
Delhi Congress vice-president and SDMC councilor, Abhishek Dutt, said both the parties are the two sides of same coin. “Both these parties have never taken such issues on priority for discussion in the House. As a result of this blame game between the two parties, the employees as well as the common people have stayed at the receiving end,” he said.
The three civic bodies have been in a financial mess ever since the MCD was trifurcated, and have struggled to implement new projects and pay salaries to their staff leading to strikes. In the build-up to the 2022 municipal elections, the BJP, which has been ruling the three civic bodies for the past 15 years, has come under severe attack from the opposition which has blamed the crisis on the mismanagement and rampant corruption in the civic bodies.
The municipal corporation elections in Delhi are crucial for all the three main contenders -- for the BJP, it will be a big test if it could manage to hold on to power despite a huge anti-incumbency; for the AAP, it will be the last frontier in its bid for complete administrative control over Delhi after having humbled its political opponents in two consecutive assembly polls; and for the Congress it will be yet another elections where it has to fight to regain whatever space it could that it has ceded to rivals in 2013.
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