We could have done better in power. It’s time to bounce back: Ajay Maken
Delhi Congress chiefMCD Elections 2017 Updated: Apr 20, 2017 09:55 IST
Trifurcation of the MCD is often cited as the reason behind the financial mess plaguing two of the three corporations now. It was Sheila Dikshit government which divided it. Did it turn out to be a bad idea?
When the trifurcation was done, the aim was to make it convenient for the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to function because it was the biggest municipal body in the world. It was too big to handle. The trifurcation was done to make it administratively manageable.
If someone says that it was because of the trifurcation the three municipal corporations are ailing, I strongly differ. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), which is supposed to be richest, has been unable to pay salary to its employees and give pensions in time.
These municipal bodies are facing a financial crunch because they have not been able to plug leakages. For example, the toll tax collection should have been Rs 1, 922 crore annually whereas the actual amount is just Rs 304 crore. Who is stopping municipal corporations to improve toll tax collection or collect outdoor advertisements revenue in a transparent manner?
What is your plan to augment municipal corporations’ revenues?
There are six ways. I will start with street vendors. Delhi has five lakh street vendors of which 14,500 have licences. Grant licence to these people and municipal corporations can collect Rs 1,000 per month as fees. This way, they can generate Rs 600 crore per year. Then, there is leakage of toll tax to the tune of Rs 1,600 crore per year. Outdoor advertisement can generate Rs 1,000 crore and there are rental income also. They can also issue municipal bonds.They can generate additional resources up to Rs 5,200 crore per year. We just need to plug in leakages. They can generate much more amount by productive utilisation of its resources.
Why didn’t you think of these reforms when you were in the Delhi government as well as the unified MCD?
We had committed several mistakes. As Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president, I am admitting that. We did not apply a vision when we were in power. We could have done better. I am not denying this. That’s why we suffered also and people did not elect us after that.
Your campaign says have faith in us, we have proven track record, and we are experienced, etc. Why people should have faith in you when your own leaders such as Arvinder Singh and Amit Malik have left the party to join BJP?
Yes, Lovely has been a very senior leader. He was minister for 10 years in Sheila Dikshit government. He was also made the president of Delhi Congress. He shouldn’t have left and joined the BJP against whom he had been contesting elections and arguing throughout his life.
A common complaint by partymen is that you don’t listen to other leaders and workers. There are allegations of irregularities and poor distribution of tickets.
I started with 9% votes in 2015 (he was appointed as Delhi Congress chief in March that year). We had municipal bypolls in May 2016 in 13 wards and the Congress had won six, AAP had four and BJP was three. We jumped from 9% to 13% in those bypolls. In Rajouri Garden bypoll, our vote share further increased to 33%. Huge improvement in percentage of votes is not a small achievement. I selected those candidates also in municipal and assembly bypolls. The municipal elections result on April 26 will prove whether I was wrong or right.
Allegations are that you ignored senior party leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit?
Sheila Dikshit is our senior leader. I was the first parliamentary secretary to her and I was also in her cabinet. I have learnt from Dikshit. I considered her as my mentor. I held key portfolios in her cabinet when several reforms in power and transport sector were brought. I had also contributed my bit to her governments.
Arvind Kejriwal said today that the Congress is finished in Delhi. If you vote for Congress, that will go waste.
It is suprising that the president of AAP, the candidate of which lost deposit just 10 days ago in Rajouri Garden bypoll, is saying so. I think people should understand where their vote would be wasted.
Are these elections a battle of survival for the Congress?
It is a battle of survival for us. I entirely agree. We need to win the election to survive in Delhi and this is the best time for the Congress to bounce back. I strongly feel that we have a fair chance of success. We will win all the three municipal corporations.
Why should people vote for you?
We are experienced. The experience, which the Congress has, can give global standards of governance in the three corporations. Secondly, we intend to turn around the civic bodies into self-sustaining entities. We would like the corporations to spend at least Rs 2,000 crore every year in underdeveloped areas of the city. We would like them to ensure timely payment of wages and pensions. Education and health are other areas, where we are going to concentrate.
People should vote us for experience because we will not enter into ‘tu tu, main main’ (argument) with the state government or the Centre. To curb corruption, we will add a citizen charter to ensure time bound delivery of services, including approval for building plans.