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Karnataka: Delay in BBMP Election Takes Toll on Civic Governance

Saurav Kumar |
The municipal body has been without an elected council since September 10, 2020 and the city administration is being run by bureaucrats.
Karnataka: Delay in BBMP Election Takes Toll on Civic Governance

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Main Building. Pic Credit: BBMP

Bengaluru: There are no signs of elections to Bengaluru’s largest civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), taking place anytime soon. And the delay is being termed as “deliberate” by former BBMP corporators. 

“BBMP election is being awaited for two years mainly due to the greed of the legislators to have more power,” Abdul Wajid of Manorayana Palya ward, a former councillor and leader of Ppposition in BBMP council, told NewsClick.

Abdul Wajid along with M Shivaraju, another ex-corporator, has filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court demanding timely conduct of BBMP elections. 

According to Bhadre Gowda, deputy mayor of BBMP and Janata Dal (Secular) leader, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government is scared to conduct elections due to anomalies in its urban administration.

In a bid to further delay the election, the state government on November 22, filed an Interlocutory Application (IA) before the Karnataka High Court, seeking three months' time to comply with the court orders. 

The BBMP has without an elected council since September 10, 2020 and the city administration is being run by bureaucrats.

In effect, the bureaucracy, hand-in-hand with the legislature, has been discharging the role of councillors in the wards. A similar situation was seen in 2007 when the void in BBMP skewed civic governance. At that point, BBMP did not have an elected council for three years. 

BBMP,  the fourth largest municipal corporation in India, officially came into existence on January 16, 2007 through the merger of 100 wards of seven City Municipal Councils, namely Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Dasarahalli, Bommanahalli, Krishnarajapuram, Mahadevapura, Byatarayanapura, Yelahanka, one Town Municipal Council, Kengeri and 110 villages around Bengaluru city.

Disputed Delimitation and Reservation

In 2020, the Karnataka government introduced the procedure of delimitation of wards. The proposal was for BBMP, which consisted of 198 elected councillors, to have 243 councillors.

To hold general elections of BBMP, the state government, in accordance with clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 21 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, issued a notification of delimitation of wards on June 23, 2020.

The Delimitation Commission was constituted to submit its recommendations for dividing the BBMP area into 243 wards and the commission sat on the “swift and timely” execution of the delimitation. 

Thereafter, sevral reasons delayed the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission being taken up by the state government, the State Election Commission’s duty to prepare a fresh electoral roll for 243 wards and lastly the declaration of the reservation of seats by the state government.

The state government fixed reservations for 243 new wards of the BBMP with 28 wards reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and four for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) based on the 2011 Census.

But this was alleged as a “biased move” to suit political power with alleged discrepancies in reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBCs). The government endorsed OBC reservation even though no data on the population of OBCs is available in the Census 2011. 

In August 2022, the State government fixed 33% quota for OBCs in the BBMP electionS and claimed that 44.40% of the total population of the state belonged to OBC. 

This was lamented by the Karnataka High Court in September 2022. 

As per Karnataka High Court, the Delimitation Commission opined to provide 33% reservation to OBCs by employing randomisation without any empirical data. A single-judge bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar said: “The commission was required to conduct a rigorous investigation into the pattern of backwardness that acts as a barrier to political participation which is indeed quite different from patterns of disadvantages in the matter of access to education or employment.”

Concern of Activists

The absence of elected councillors has left citizens high and dry as there is no one to routinely listen to and act on their concerns.

As per Pratap M, a civic issues activist, the grievances of citizens do not reach the municipal body and this was evident during the recent flood fury in parts of the city, which was also one of the important reasons that Bengaluru miserably failed to act against the rain-related crisis. 

“BBMP bureaucrats are answerable to the executive and not the people. An elected council of the corporation, with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, used to hold several meetings regarding rain preparedness and go to the ground and work. But officials have not been doing this” Pratap told NewsClick.

Sandeep Anirudhan, convenor of Citizens’ Agenda for Bengaluru, Namma Whitefield and other civic groups told NewsClick: “Representation of BBMP is delayed and as a result interference of MLAs has come to the fore. In the absence of an unfiltered run of BBMP, corruption issues have erupted in different parts of the city. So, malicious intent is driving governance.”

“Moreover, BBMP with or without an elected council is an object of power hunger,” Anirudhan told NewsClick.

At present, the BBMP commissioner has appointed a nodal officer and superintending officer and has made their meetings a mandatory affair. 

But, the absence of a local elected body to run the city is a clear violation of the 74th constitutional amendment, which requires municipal bodies to function as institutions of self-government.

Sandeep, however, believes the state government’s attitude to control the funds to be utilised for development is the reason behind reluctance towards the 74th Amendment.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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