It’s time to empower mayors (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Urban local bodies
Mains level: Role of urban local bodies in the society
- This development may again give rise to the demand for a ‘strong mayor’
helming urban local bodies (ULBs), as the role of the Delhi Chief Minister
is treated on a par with the role of a mayor of a municipal corporation.
- With electoral politics in India becoming increasingly
personality-centric, the idea of an empowered mayor may find many takers.
- The larger issue at hand is the quality of urban governance. It is
unrealistic to expect a high quality of governance as long as political
parties have a complete grip over the way civic bodies function.
- It is time policymakers and political leaders began to seriously
contemplate party-less elections to ULBs.
- It has been debated at the All India Mayors conference. But due to the
unwillingness of parties to examine the concept, the idea has not taken off.
- Already, in a majority of the States, the election for the posts of
presidents and councillors of gram panchayats is done on non-party lines. At
least in respect of rural local bodies (RLBs), there is some justification
for the presence of political parties as, otherwise, caste alone might
- In ULBs, the caste factor remains subdued, especially during elections.
Besides, there is no sound rationale for holding polls for ULBs on party
lines as these bodies neither legislate nor frame policies.
- Also, there is no scope for any political ideology to play a role in the
affairs of ULBs. The main task of the bodies is to handle problems
concerning sanitation, water supply and solid waste management.
- Protagonists of the party system may point out that there has been a
tradition of political leaders heading ULBs.
- They may also argue that the participation of political personalities in
elections to ULBs cannot be prevented. But the reality is that the calibre
of the political leadership is in short supply and the issues concerning
ULBs have undergone a sea change over time.
- According to the 2011 Census, there are about 8,000 towns in India.
- There are at least 50 cities or urban agglomerations with more than a
million people, says the 15th Finance Commission.
- These cities face challenges of pollution, ground water depletion and
- There are also inter-State disparities in the level of urbanisation and
in the urban poverty ratio. ULBs don’t have finances, a problem ignored by
the elected representatives.
Parties have nothing to fear:
- There is also political justification for why elections to the ULBs
should take place on non-party lines.
- Under the present scheme, Chief Ministers do not want strong ULB chiefs
to emerge, especially if the person happens to be from his or her party.
- This explains why parties prefer indirect elections. On the contrary, if
the polls are held on non-party lines with direct elections for chiefs of
ULBs, a new crop of leaders will emerge outside the political class.
- Well-educated and well-qualified youngsters will be encouraged to take
part in the election process.
- More importantly, municipal elections are bound to become cheaper as
there will be no need for competitive spending by nominees of rival parties.
- Even if some successful mayors emerge in the process and want to take on
established parties in the Assembly or Lok Sabha polls, this will be a
herculean task for them, so parties have nothing to fear.
- In fact, parties stand to gain, as MLAs may not be villified for all the
wrongdoings of local bodies.
- Questions will be raised about the credentials of candidates for the
post of mayor.
- State Election Commissions can prescribe qualifications for mayors, over
and above the existing ones, to address them.
- The issue of cohesion between mayors and councils will also be raised.
- ULBs can have meaningful empowerment only if the concept of non-party
elections is adopted. This is a prerequisite for the implementation of the
‘strong mayor’ model.
Q.1) With reference to the Safer Internet Day (SID) 2020, consider the
1. This year, February 5 is being observed as Safer Internet Day (SID).
2. The theme is “Together for a better internet”.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) None of the above
Q.1) Do you think it is possible to conduct elections to urban local
bodies should take place on non-party lines? Critically comment.