Stay on BBMP polls does not augur well for city, say civic activists
‘Decisions that should be taken by elected council are being taken by administrator’
The stay on the order of the Karnataka High Court to hold polls to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) within six weeks has dashed the hopes of citizens and civil society members of having an elected body in place.
Many were of the view that a postponement of polls to the local body will not augur well for the city.
M. Shivaraju, former Opposition leader in the BBMP Council said the amendment to Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, increasing the number of wards to 243, and the hurried approval to the BBMP Bill 2020 were ruses to put off polls. “The BBMP, with an administrator in place of an elected body, has been taking decisions such as imposition of user fee, increasing cess etc. These are decisions that should be taken by an elected council and not an administrator,” he said.
Mr. Shivaraju, along with Abdul Wajid, also a former Opposition leader, had filed a PIL petition in the Karnataka High Court challenging the government’s decision to defer elections to the BBMP council. The HC issued directions for holding elections expeditiously, which was stayed by the SC on Friday.
Highly placed sources said with this development, all activities taken up for the polls, such as delimitation, fixing reservation, etc. will come to a stop, albeit temporarily. “The MLAs will reign supreme in the absence of councillors. As it is, the MLAs’ roles in the new BBMP Bill encroaches on the duties and roles of councillors,” sources pointed out.
Concurring, former Mayor G. Padmavathi said with no councillors, citizens were finding it difficult to get their problems addressed. “If there is no water supply or if the street lights are not working or parks are not maintained properly, can the citizens approach the MLA? The biggest complaint is also that officials are not approachable. In these difficult times, the citizens don’t have anyone to turn to,” she said.
V.S. Ugrappa, former MP, termed the development as unfortunate. He pointed out as per Article 243 of the Constitution, it is clear that there shall always be an elected body in place in the local bodies/ authorities and that there shall be no administrator. He also said that giving MLAs deciding powers in the affairs, duties and responsibilities of the local body was against the spirit of the Constitution and 74th Amendment.
Activists too held a similar view. Polls to the BBMP need to be held as early as possible to ensure there is a council in place to address the affairs of the city, said Sapna Karim, head of Civic Participation, Janaagraha. “Infrastructure issues abound and without ward councillors, the current structure of administrators and nodal officers are not sufficient for any medium to long term period,” she said.