Lok Sabha elections 2019: Rahul Gandhi makes a pitch for direct mayoral elections
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that his party wants direct elections for mayors to improve the quality of urban living.
Gandhi’s announcement comes a day before the party will release its manifesto on Tuesday for the staggered national polls that begin on April 11.
“Real smart cities are built by good leaders. To improve quality of life in our cities we will move to directly elected Mayors with 5 yr terms & elected councils. Administration will be run by multidisciplinary teams of specialists & experts accountable to the Mayor & council,” he tweeted.
Currently, mayors are elected indirectly, that is to say, from among the corporators and councillors. The state-appointed Municipal Commissioner has administrative and executive powers. A strong mayor model puts executive power in the hands of the mayor -- currently followed in many cities such as New York, Tokyo and Barcelona -- rather than the commissioner or chief executive.
Although the Constitution (seventy-fourth) Amendment Act of 1992 conferred constitutional recognition on Urban Local Bodies, it did not specify a model of governance for cities or the manner in which the chief of ULBs would be elected.
“It’s an excellent idea because that is the spirit in which the 74th amendment act was promulgated. The amendment empowers the local municipality to bring out master plans for towns and at present, the mayor is just a puppet in the hands of the commissioner, or the state and central government who controls the finances...hence putting that power in the hands of an elected representative is a true expression of democracy,” said KT Ravindran, professor and head of urban design at the School of Planning and Architecture of New Delhi.
“If you look at our 2004, 2009 and 2014 manifestos, it’s a policy initiative covering all core sectors. Unlike BJP saying they will make 100 smart cities... our focus is on the policy,” said a Congress leader .
He said the manifesto proposes radical judicial reforms and electoral reforms. “There is a dedicated section for minority upliftment. The manifesto also proposes a free and fair election in the state of Jammu& Kashmir along with internal security in the state.”
Senior Congress leaders, involved in the manifesto process, indicated that the poll paper will have quite a few broad policy directions covering many core social, economic and administrative sectors. The plan would be to indicate the reforms that the Congress intends to usher in, if it comes to power.
“If you look at our manifestos of 2004, 2009 and 2014 it’s a broad policy initiative covering all core sectors. Unlike BJP saying they will make 100 smart cities, we don’t make specific claims in such a way. Our focus is on the policy,” said a senior leader. He added that apart from unemployment and the framework of the NYAY scheme, “there will also be a section on the protection of environment and water bodies and curbing air pollution.
“We will also focus on coastal security guidelines,” another Congress leader said.