Delhi Assembly Session on Jan. 3-4 expected to be a stormy one
By Ashok Dixit
New Delhi, Dec.22 (Delhi Crown): In a fortnight from now, the Delhi Assembly will meet for a two-day session to discuss a host of issues, most notably a bill to establish the first ever Delhi Teachers’ University.
The Delhi cabinet may have approved the setting up of this institution, but we can anticipate a discussion on it to be pushed aside due to the ongoing free-for-all spat between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the opposition BJP over the release of funds to the capital city’s three municipal corporations (MCDs).
It isn’t surprising that this issue is dominating headlines for the past week or more, given that municipal council polls are just about five months away.
These funds, allocated annually, are meant to meet development-related basic civic amenities of Delhi’s tax-paying public. Is that criterion being met? A majority would say not enough is being done? But is the AAP or the BJP listening to this crucial and significant vote-bank? If the happenings of the past week are anything to go by, most unlikely, as for both, the political stakes are just too high and more important in this make or break battle for control of corporations.
The AAP is keen to wrest control of all three MCDs – North, South and East – from the BJP, which has had a firm stranglehold over these local bodies for the last decade-and-a-half. The BJP, however, believes it has delivered on amenities to the Delhi’s citizens’ in-spite of a lack of funds.
The current war-of-words between the AAP and the BJP has surfaced after BJP-ruled MCDs sought urgent central government assistance to tide over what they termed as a “severe financial crisis” bedeviling the three civic bodies.
This request has naturally raised the AAP’s hackles. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has obviously seen an opportunity to score political points.
“The Delhi government is supposed to provide Rs.3488 crores to the MCDs in fiscal 2021-22. So far, the Delhi government has given the MCDs 75 percent of the funds in three installments, totalling Rs.2588 crores. The remaining 25 percent will be disbursed in January. We have also provided a loan of Rs.6, 889 crores to these three civic bodies,” said Sisodia on December 21.
Though the central finance ministry has rejected the BJP-led MCD request by clarifying that Rs.488 per person per annum is given to municipal bodies in states only and that there is no provision in law to allocate similar financial assistance to municipal bodies in Union Territories like Delhi, the AAP has been quick to point out that the BJP brass at the city level lacks spine, conviction and determination to raise issues or demand redressal with central ministers belonging to their party. The AAP opines that the BJP should spend less time pleasing their seniors and more time in resolving alleged financial distress, if at all.
It is another matter that the Centre is guilty of not clearing outstanding debts such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) owing Rs.1300 crores to the South MCD and Rs.2800 crores to the North MCD, as per reports.
With election preparations reaching fever pitch, both the AAP and the BJP are taking pains to expose each other’s shortcomings, and it goes without saying, that the brunt of their political excesses will only be felt by the tax-paying public.
If the AAP is charging the BJP with turning the three civic bodies into “white elephants,” the latter is not far behind in questioning the former’s ability to provide better facilities to Delhiites if it is elected.
If the AAP is accusing the BJP of not having a roadmap to improve MCD finances, then the BJP is asking the AAP to first set its own house in order locally before accusing the Centre of failing to give financial assistance to the MCDs.
Where is the Delhi unit of the Congress party in this political rigmarole? Though only 31 of its members are Councillors in the three corporations, it too is not far behind in its criticism.
The Delhi unit of the Congress claims that both the AAP and the BJP are two sides of the same coin, refusing to logically discuss and resolve issues of priority, and only indulging in brinkmanship for selfish benefit. Who stands to lose? It is the common people!
What needs to be taken note of is that ever since the trifurcation of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi more than two decades ago, financial accountability has been given a miss, even as new projects are announced regularly with much fanfare, whether funds are available or not. Is there a crisis in the management of these civic bodies? Many would reply in the affirmative!
The Delhi municipal corporation polls are crucial for all three contenders. For the BJP, the desire will be to extend its hold on power by a further five years. For the AAP, achieving control over the corporations is the last frontier to gain a complete administrative hold over Delhi. For the Congress, the mission is only to regain lost political space.
(Ashok Dixit is a senior journalist in Delhi. Views are his personal)