In Poll Picture, MCD’s Supporting Role May Dim Stardom of Himachal, Gujarat Elections

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The announcement of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections has spurred political parties into action with each targeting the other over a host of issues such as sanitation, the Capital’s towering garbage dumps, corruption, and corporation taxes. The polls came over eight months after they were meant to be called and at a time when high-profile assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal are underway.

MCD elections were aborted when the Union government decided to dissolve Delhi’s erstwhile municipal corporations and reunify them into a single body, a process that also involved whittling down the wards from 272 to 250. Now, the polling is scheduled to take place on December 5, and the results for all 250 wards (across 12 zones such as Civil Lines, Karol Bagh, and Rohini) will be declared on December 7. The outcome of these polls will be as crucial for political parties, as that of Himachal and Gujarat.

Being the national capital, the power structure in Delhi is divided between the Central government, the elected government of the national territory and the civic bodies in the city.

Among civic bodies, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) looks over the administration of Lutyens’ Delhi which houses diplomatic missions, significant government offices and upscale gated communities. The Delhi Cantonment Board (DCB) looks at the administration of the Cantonment area that houses defence establishments. However, together the two bodies only control three per cent of Delhi.

The rest of the 97 per cent of the national capital–home to millions of people–comes under the jurisdiction of MCD– the second-largest civic body in the world.

So, what does the MCD do? Do the functions of the civic body and the Delhi government and the centre overlap? And why are upcoming polls important for residents of Delhi, News18 explains.

What Is the Function Of MCD?

Spread over 1,484 square km of land, Delhi has a population of 17.8 million in 2014, according to a report by worldpopulationreview.com. Under the rules of the government of India, all cities with a population of over ten lakh are required to have a municipal corporation.

The functions of municipal corporations include running hospitals and dispensaries, managing water supply, maintaining the drainage system, and ensuring the upkeep and maintenance of marketplaces in the city.

The municipal corporations also build and maintain parks and parking lots, oversee the functioning of primary schools, construct and maintain roads and over-bridges, install and maintain street lights, look after solid-waste management, recover property and professional taxes, operate the toll tax collection system, run cremation grounds and maintain the birth and death records of the area.

Like all other municipal corporations, the MCD in Delhi is also responsible for these functions.

Do Functions of the MCD, Delhi Government and Centre Overlap?

Being the national capital, often, the civic responsibilities of the MCD and Delhi government and the centre overlap. Both MCD and Delhi government have similar functions like the construction of roads, running government schools and public health care centres, along with licensing of vehicles.

However, the work is divided between the two bodies to avoid confusion and better accountability.

For instance, most roads that are over 60 feet wide come under the Delhi government, while the narrower ones are looked after by MCD. Similarly, while the Delhi government provides licences to larger motorised vehicles, the MCD deals with cycle-rickshaws, hand-pulled carts and the like, according to a report by The Wire.

In terms of running educational institutes, MCD is responsible for primary schools, while the Delhi government looks after higher schooling, colleges and professional education.

In the health sector, the Delhi government looks after bigger and more specialised hospitals, while MCD runs dispensaries and some hospitals.

The tax collected at tolls at the borders, advertisement revenue and property tax goes to MCD, while the Delhi government collects excise duty, service tax and value-added tax on the services and commodities sold.

Being the national capital, the Centre also has a role in running these services, though on a bigger scale. For instance, the central government runs large hospitals such as AIIMS, and Safdarjung; builds and maintains highways; makes city master plans through the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and brings housing schemes, among other services.

The Centre also runs Delhi’s airport, Metro and railway stations apart from controlling the police and land, while the Delhi government looks after power-water supplies and wastewater management and bus services.

Why MCD Polls Are Crucial

The functions of MCD affect millions of lives, especially those of the weakest section of society.  From waste management, a big problem in Delhi that is quite evident in the shape of overflowing trash towers in Ghazipur, to safety audits of buildings, the corporation is responsible for looking after some of the basic necessities of the residents. It is also the MCD’s job to check stray animals’ menace and organise cleanliness drives to prevent diseases like dengue and malaria.

For undertaking these tasks, the MCD gets monetary grants, including tax shares, from both the Centre and the Delhi government. It also collects property, professional and road toll taxes, and generates revenue from advertisements.

Political Race

Where there is money and power, there is also it’s natural to have a political race to attain that power. In the past, these elections were seen as quarter-finals, with results indicating the mood of voters for assembly elections (or the semi-finals) and then the Lok Sabha elections (or the finals).

However, the trend does not always stand true. The BJP has been ruling the corporation for 20 years, while Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had governments in Delhi.

The saffron party won the MCD elections in 2007 when the Congress was in power at both the Centre and in Delhi. However, the party was unable to carry on with its winning streak in the following assembly elections in 2008, when Congress, under Sheila Dikshit returned to power for a record third time.

In 2017, the BJP won a massive two-thirds of the total number of wards and increased its seat tally from 138 in 2012 to 181 in 2017. However, in 2020, it again lost the Assembly polls to AAP, which came to power with a complete majority by winning 62 of the 70 seats.

Now, in 2022, AAP is aiming to take control of MCD from Delhi. On Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal released his party’s manifesto for the MCD polls and blamed the BJP for all ills plaguing the city. He also offered to clear the three landfill sites, among ’10 guarantees such as solving the parking and stray animal issues and building better roads, schools, hospitals and parks.

On the other side, BJP has been attacking the Delhi government over pollution and alleged corruption of their ministers, while Congress is seeking votes on the basis of the work done by its last Chief Minister, the Late Sheila Dikshit, who served the capital for three terms.

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