Delhi electorate seeks legal opinion on timing of civic body elections | Latest Delhi News
The Delhi State Election Commission (SEC) has sought a legal opinion on whether it can go ahead with announcing the timing of municipal polls in Delhi despite a communication from a center that it may present a legislation in the current session of parliament to unify the three civic bodies in Delhi, officials familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
“The commission will likely receive the legal advice by the end of this week or early next week. The commission will consider the legal expert opinion and decide on the next step,” an SEC official said asking not to be named.The official did not reveal the names of the legal experts from whom the voting committee sought legal advice.
A second SEC official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the legal opinion will facilitate the decision-making process the panel must make regarding the conduct of the MCD election.
MCD elections are due to take place in April and the terms of three civic bodies will end in May.
Last Wednesday, the SEC, which was to report the election schedule to the three civic bodies, postponed the announcement at the last minute, citing a communication from the central government on plans to merge the three municipal corporations.
The postponement of the announcement of the polling schedule sparked a political row with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hitting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claiming it was “running away” from the elections.
Last Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the SEC caved in to pressure from the Union government and postponed announcing the timing of the civic body polls. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to “cancel” the elections, saying the country’s values should not be “violated at all costs”.
The BJP has led the three civic bodies for three consecutive terms and faces a massive anti-incumbent struggle as all three corporations face an acute financial crisis. Thousands of MCD employees have gone on repeated strikes over the past two years over non-payment of wages even as the companies have been unable to execute new development projects. The AAP, which is the main opposition party in the three civic bodies, has consistently raised issues of rampant corruption and financial mismanagement by BJP advisers.
The elections are crucial for all three candidates – BJP, AAP and Congress. Having failed to make a dent in the AAP’s unprecedented majority in the last two Delhi assembly elections, the MCDs remain the BJP’s last bastion in Delhi. Congress, which has been relegated to the political margins in the capital, is seeking to revive its cadres in the capital by making electoral gains.
The term of South Delhi Municipal Corporation expires on May 18, 2022, the term of North Delhi Corporation will expire on May 19, and the term of East Delhi Civic Body will end on May 22. The state election commission must conduct elections before terms expire. “Polls must be conducted before May 18, and since it takes at least a month between the date of the announcement of the timetable and the date on which the polls will take place, the timetable for the polls should be announced before April 18. “, said the official.
Earlier, the SEC clarified that the MCD polls have not been canceled or postponed, and added that it only postponed the announcement in view of the communication sent by the Center.
Read also | MCD elections: AAP seeks to redesign its campaign and motivate party cadres
Speculation about the unification of the three companies has been going on for some time. The BJP is in favor of unification as it believes it will solve the financial mess that two of the three companies have faced since trifurcation in 2012.
Pundits, however, have pointed out that unification may not be the magic bullet for all the ills of civic bodies. They said that it would take a new economic model and rationalization of revenues and expenses to make the three bodies financially viable without which even unification could not be possible.
Professor Tanvir Aeijaz, an associate professor of political science at Ramjas College, said the SEC was constitutionally under no obligation to follow central government communications.
“Elections to municipalities are constitutionally entrusted to the SEC, which, as an autonomous constitutional body, has the power to supervise, direct and control the conduct of elections of local bodies. Local administration, in particular the powers of municipal corporations, is a subject of the state. However, in the case of Delhi, due to its unique constitutional status as a UT with an elected assembly, the power to reorganize civic bodies rests with the center. But under no circumstances can the center violate the powers of the SEC, because that would be a violation of federal principles (of the Constitution),” he said.