At the core of the MCD tussle: Zonal bodies, aldermen
By the virtue of their voting rights in ward committees, the aldermen can tilt the balance in the elections for the members of the standing committee
New Delhi: At the heart of the political tussle that plunged the first meeting of the newly elected MCD House into pandemonium on Friday a re 10 nominated members, called aldermen, who did not have any voting rights till 2015.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 allows nomination of people having experience in municipal administration to the civic body. However, they did not have voting rights in the House of elected councillors.
In 2015, Onika Malhotra, a former Congress councillor and an alderman, moved the Delhi High Court seeking voting rights for the nominated members. In its verdict on April 27, 2015, the high court ruled that the aldermen can vote as members of the ward committees. Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who delivered the verdict, said, “They cannot file their nomination for being elected as chairperson of the wards committee. They can also offer their candidature for being elected as member of the standing committee, and they may vote in meeting of the standing committee (if elected to the panel) but they cannot offer their candidature for being appointed as a chairperson of the standing committee.”
Former chief law officer of erstwhile North MCD Anil Gupta said that the Section 3 of the DMC Act states that the administrator nominates these ten persons (aldermen), who should not be less than 25 years of age and who have special knowledge or experience in municipal administration.
“The same section specifies that the persons nominated under this sub-clause will not have the right to vote in the meetings of the corporation, but the aldermen secured voting rights in the zonal wards committees through a Delhi high court judgement in 2015,” he added.
Gupta, who was corporation’s chief law officer during the high court case, stated that essentially aldermen hold all the powers of an elected councillor except voting in the House and holding the post chairperson of wards/standing committee.
It is this power to vote in the ward committees that is at the centre of the current conflict between the Aam Aadmi Party, which has a simple majority in the House with 134 members, and the BJP which has 105 councillors.
By the virtue of their voting rights in ward committees, the aldermen can tilt the balance in the elections for the members of the standing committee. While the House will elect six members of the standing committee, the ward committees will choose 12 of the remaining members of the powerful panel that holds the power to ratify all proposals and policies before they are discussed in the House.
Zonal ward committees
A deep dive into the constitution of the zonal ward will further help understand the root cause of the problem. The MCD has 12 ward committees, one each for its 12 zones. These ward committees are structures meant to decentralise administrative powers, and provide local solutions for local problems. Each zonal ward committee consists of all councillors elected from the wards that come under that particular zone.
Taking into account the composition of the zones in terms of the councillors elected from there, the AAP has a majority in seven zones, and BJP controls four zones. In one zone, the two parties are even, and the Congress may control the final outcome in decision making.
However, the AAP claims that the LG has chosen aldermen in a way that can tip scales in the favour of BJP in three more wards -- Narela, Civl Lines and Central -- enabling the party to send more members to the standing committee than the AAP.
To be sure, it is the prerogative of the LG to nominate and choose as many aldermen from any zone as he wants.
Residents slam politics
Rajiv Kakria, convener of Save Our City campaign, said political designs have defeated the purpose behind creation of the position of aldermen. “Everything has become about holding onto power, and no one is bothered about public service. Could they not find one person of eminence from RWAs, academia, sports or NGOs who can add value to the municipal administration. These people (aldermen) should not have any political background,” he added.