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MC Explainer: The power tussle over delimitation of municipal wards in Delhi

The need for delimitation arose after the Centre notified the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, in April.

September 19, 2022 / 08:36 PM IST

A week after the State Election Commission (SEC) published the first draft for delimitation of municipal wards in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are at loggerheads over the procedure.

The State Election Commission has urged stakeholders to submit their suggestions and objections before October 3.

MC Explains

What is delimitation

Delimitation is defined as a process of fixing the boundaries of an area to represent changes in the population. The main objective of carrying out the delimitation exercise is to have equal representation for equal segments of the population. In India, the “Delimitation Commission is a high-power body, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court”. The boundaries are redrawn on the basis of the recent census.

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Why is it happening in Delhi?

The need for the delimitation exercise arose after the Centre notified the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, in April. On May 18, Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification for the reunification of the three municipal corporations of Delhi – North, East, and South – into a single entity, from May 22, 2022. The Centre said it will go for delimitation as the number of municipal wards needs to be brought down from 272 to not more than 250.

Constitution of Delimitation Committee

On July 8, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted the Delimitation Committee, and it is now headed by State Election Commissioner Vijay Dev. The Committee was asked to complete the exercise and submit its report within four months from the date of its constitution. The committee on September 12 completed the work of the draft for delimitation of municipal wards of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). The exact number of municipal councilors has been fixed at 250.

Concerns raised by residents

The draft on the website of the State Election Commission shows the changes in the municipal wards across 24 Assembly segments to bring down the number of total wards from 272 to 250. As per media reports, the panel had said that to maintain parity, it will fix the population in each municipal ward of Delhi at 65,675 with a variation of 10 percent plus or minus.

There are at least 100 municipal wards where variation is around 90 percent, says a report in the Times of India. The residents have pointed out that it is not equal population and equal representation.

Power tussle

While the AAP is heading the government in Delhi, the civic body has been a bastion for BJP for over 17 years now. The Centre has reasoned that unification will fix the financial problems, but AAP has viewed it as a ploy to make political gains. AAP has been alleging that there was anti-incumbency against the BJP, following which they unified all three civic bodies to get into a comfortable situation.

The debate over reunification dates back to 2012 when the decision to trifurcate MCD was taken under the watch of then chief minister Sheila Dixit. As per media reports, Congress had claimed that it was done to decentralise the mammoth MCD. However, political experts say, it was again an attempt by the then Congress government in Delhi to make inroads into the civic body.

Soon after trifurcation, Congress lost the civic body polls and BJP again gained a majority in all the municipal corporations.

Neelkant Bakshi, a BJP spokesperson, said, “Aam Aadmi Party considers itself to be the judge in such matters. They have never fulfilled promises and now they have a problem with every procedure. The draft is in the public domain and suggestions have been sought. Whatever is legal will be followed accordingly.”

The first draft report has as many as 900 pages and 250 of these maps the new wards of Delhi.

“The unification will financially strengthen the civic body. The Kejriwal government did not distribute the money to the three civic bodies, as a result of which employees were protesting because they didn’t get their salaries,” Bakshi added.

Civic polls

Experts say the new municipal wards in Delhi are expected to be drawn up by November this year, after which the State Election Commission is likely to begin the poll process for municipal elections.
Sohil Sehran covers politics and national affairs. A journalist with over 9 years of experience. He has worked for different television, digital, and print publication in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.
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