With less than four months left for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council term to end, there are all indications of the election process witnessing yet another quandary on the lines of last BBMP election. While the Congress councillors are hell-bent on the restructuring of BBMP to take place prior to the polls, the ruling BJP councillors are in no mood to wait for the restructuring to happen.
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It could be recalled that the Palike was without Council for three years from 2006 to 2009 and the election was held in 2010, only after the High Court intervention. This time delimitation issue is coupled with restructuring, giving a clear indication of a high political drama.
On the one hand the panel constituted by the State government to look into restructuring of BBMP has initiated the process calling for suggestions from public. On the other hand the district administration too claims to have begun the process of delimitation. Despite the Karnataka State government issuing a gazette notification to the deputy commissioners in February 2014, ordering for the mandatory delimitation of the wards in urban local bodies based on the 2011 census prior to the election, the deputy commissioner of Bengaluru Urban had not started the process till recently.
According to sources, in a recent meeting chaired by the State Election Commissioner, the district administration was directed to initiate the delimitation process immediately, avoiding further delay. When Citizen Matterscontacted Venkatachalapathi, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Bengaluru Urban), he said that the district administration has started the delimitation process, after the completion of which the government could declare the reservation roster before announcing a final notification on elections. “The boundaries of wards will not be changed, but the voters will be reshuffled based on population according to 2011 census,” he claimed.
Urban Development Department Secretary Anil Kumar said that the department has been repeatedly issuing instructions to the district administration to initiate the delimitation process. “Due to the delay of the district administration to commence the delimitation work, we have set them a deadline to complete the procedure,” he said.
‘Government shouldn’t delay elections’
The BJP councillors who have been resisting and have even passed a resolution in the Council opposing the proposed division, have given the sign of opting for a legal fight against the government. Council ruling party leader N R Ramesh told Citizen Matters that the councillors are planning to move to the court this month against the government for delaying the election process. “The government should not delay the election process citing restructuring or delimitation process. Election should take place without the change of wards. If the government intends to do restructuring prior to the election, they should have done it in advance rather than keeping it for the last minute,” he pointed.
In contrary, the Congress councillors who though declare that they are ready to face the election any time, are of the view that election should be held only after the restructuring. M K Gunashekhar, Congress councillor from Jayamahal ward, who is also the member of the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) formed in order to look into planning the development of Bengaluru, said the election will be held only after restructuring of BBMP.
“Restructuring is the need of the hour to improve the administration of the BBMP. We have asked the restructuring panel to complete the work and submit the report at the earliest,” he said, even as he agreed that they were fully aware of the High Court order on BBMP election in 2010.
District-in-Charge Minister R Ramalinga Reddy too held the same view. He said that the government has asked the restructuring panel to submit the report at the earliest, so that restructuring could be completed prior to the election. “Election would be held on time and there would not be any delay in the procedure. We will abide by the State Election Commission orders,” he added.
Six months’ wait before elections?
Interestingly, the committee on restructuring BBMP has estimated a time frame of six months to complete the process. P Manivannan, Committee Member Secretary, Stated that “as the estimation stands today it would take six months to submit the report.” Even if the report is submitted in six months, it would easily take another few months to act on the report.
Earlier when Citizen Matters spoke to Ravichandar, urban expert and a member of the restructuring committee, he had noted that the BBMP election and the committee’s work are not related and elections can be conducted even when the committee works on restructuring the city.
When contacted, P N Srinivasachari, State Election Commissioner, refused to comment on the State Election Commission’s view on BBMP polls and its preparedness.
What is the way ahead?
Considering the High Court order given to the State government on conducting BBMP election in 2010, there are less chances of the election being postponed for too long this time. The High Court in its 2010 order had lashed out at the government for delaying the election process.
In fact, delaying the election will result in the violation of the 74th amendment of the Indian Constitution. According to the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992, municipal bodies shall function as institutions of self-government. But having no municipal councils and proceedings will result technically in having no self-governance.
If at all the government decides to hold the election after completion of restructuring, an option before the government is to dissolve the Council before the completion of its term. In that case, the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 makes it clear that “urban local bodies shall be constituted for a period of five years and if dissolved earlier, an election to reconstitute it shall be completed before the expiration of a period of six months from the date of dissolution.” This gives the State government a time gap of up to six months to conduct the re-election.
But, with the BJP councillors gearing up to approach the court demanding for the election to be conducted on time, the State government may yet again face the music.