Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Directly elected Mayor for BBMP would conflict with the Constitution and public demands?

The argument against the very concept of a directly elected Mayor for a 5-year term comes from the need to have a representative, democratic, decentralisation based electoral process, with caste reservation and the principles enshrined in the Indian constitution, as well as the need for representation of the historically deprived urban poor.

Abundant safeguards need to be identified and implemented to ensure compliance with these principles in conformity with Part IX-A (74th CAA). The expression of the need for a directly elected mayor conflicts with them.

This could well be the classic conflict which a face off between concepts of globalisation and modernity throw up. In the Indian context the principles of equality and social justice implemented through the form of reservation for backward and historically deprived castes and communities (SC/ST, Women) is itself the expression of modernity. This is because it shows how the nation can move forward and how such a step ahead is consistent with the long standing demands for maintaining social justice and equality.

This is crucial when it comes to elections to municipal and local governments, use of resources and decision making regarding the planning and allocation of resources for fulfillment of basic public needs.

On the other hand the demands of the globalised terrain of for profit corporates and MNC's is to place a city such as Bengaluru in the governance frameworks of New York or London. Their not for profit foundations also join the chorus. In Bengaluru this reactionary force has crystallised into the Bangalore Political action committee (b.pac) a trust, which positions itself as the promoter of a middle class 'vote bank', the young educated globalised urban youth.

b.pac the "infrastructure advocates"

But there is a consensus among members of the b.pac trust to support the creation of infrastructure for the economic growth of city of Bengaluru rather than the human development of its citizens. This would mainly include highly expensive and profitable signal- free corridors, underpasses, toll based expressways, metro rail and stilt flyovers. Many of these would be access controlled due to high tolls or by restricting certain vehicles (like cycles, buses, horse drawn carriages and other non-motorised Transport) but not restricted for cars, SUV's, MUV's and XUV's.

Clearly this approach is distinct from supporting the implementation of projects for basic needs such as water supply, roads, drains and street lights, which are paid for by the property taxes of citizens. In fact by prioritising infrastructure growth as opposed to basic needs the property taxes are being diverted away from essential core functions of local governments such as water supply, streets, roads and roadside drains.

5-year term conflicts with constitutional principles

It is not possible to have adequate rotation, reservation, or representation if the term is five years for one directly elected Mayor. But would this conflict with constitutional principles? Yes - since this may result in the election of a Mayor from the SC/ ST community only after a period of 20-25 years depending on the rotation in reservation. It would be a gross setback to such principles and public demands.

Similarly an argument for the election of a mayor with a Bengaluru vision based on profits for 'stakeholders', commercialisation and corporatisation are also inconsistent with the principles listed above.

This is exactly why the current corporate obsession with 'infrastructure led growth' and growth rate of cities and city economies cannot be the drivers of a city vision consistent with democratic constitutional norms.

In fact the corporate vision for planning and infrastructure growth at local government level calls for a sacrifice of local democracy. These are more consistent with the vision of a city -state or a union territory which end up negating the need for a BBMP municipal council.

The democratisation required to strengthen the functioning of a local municipal council must also be debated and would be the subject of a future blog.....

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