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Explained | Why Bengaluru's BBMP Still Lacks an Elected Municipal Council

Bengaluru has been managing the development of its city without an elected municipal council for over two years.

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Explained | Why Bengaluru's BBMP Still Lacks an Elected Municipal Council
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IT hub Bengaluru has not only suffered flooding recently but has also been managing the development of its city without an elected municipal council for over two years.

In fact, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council’s term expired on 10 September 2020.

The BBMP, earlier run by a city council comprising corporators, one from each ward, is responsible for taking care of the city’s development – from health and education, to upgrading stormwater drains, and repairing potholes.

After several legal battles, creation of new wards, and blurring of lines between the roles of the State government and the civic body during the COVID-19 pandemic, Karnataka High Court on Friday, 30 September, directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to elect a new council by 31 December.

But will the deadline be adhered to? Will the ruling government be able to abide by the court’s decision? How has BBMP been run for the past two years?

The Quint spoke to former BBMP officials and representatives from political parties to find out why India’s Silicon Valley has been functioning without an elected civic council.

Explained | Why Bengaluru's BBMP Still Lacks an Elected Municipal Council

  1. 1. History & BBMP’s Structure

    With the population expansion in Bangalore in the past few decades, the BBMP has faced a barrage of problems including repeated allegations of corruption. Structural changes, in terms of new wards or decentralisation of BBMP, have been recommended on multiple occasions.

    2015: An expert committee for BBMP restructuring was constituted and it put forward certain suggestions.

    Based on the population growth in Bengaluru from 2001 to 2011, the committee recommended that the city have 400 wards and five decentralised Municipal Corporations. Each ward in the city's outskirts was recommended to have a population of about 20,000 persons and in the core areas of the city, each ward could have 30,000 people.

    However, despite the recommendations, the delimitation exercise could not be undertaken until 2020.

    24 September 2020: The state Legislative Assembly passed Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill to increase the number of civic wards in Bengaluru to at total of 250.

    6 October 2020: The then Chief Minister of Karnataka BS Yediyurappa approved the select committee’s decision and, going by numerology, agreed to have 243 wards. The committee was then tasked with the division of older wards to form 243 new wards.

    10 December 2020: BS Yediyurappa's government passed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Bill, 2020 in the Karnataka legislature. The BBMP Act, which now governs the municipal corporation, made several changes to BBMP’s structure.

    For instance, the term length of the mayor and the deputy mayor was increased to five years from one year and number of zones was increased from eight to 15.

    More importantly, the BBMP Act gave the state government, and not an independent commission, the powers to delimit wards.

    The BBMP is currently run by an administrator, a chief commissioner, and nodal officers for each ward, appointed by the Basavaraj Bommai-led government. There have also been allegations that the MLAs of the ruling government and the former corporators are now running the show.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Have the Elections Been Delayed?

    The elections have been delayed due to multiple legal battles revolving around the delimitation exercise and the state government’s reservation list for BBMP elections announced in August this year. Also, there are less than six months left for Karnataka Assembly elections. It is speculated that neither the ruling government nor the Opposition would want to test electoral waters before the crucial state elections scheduled for 2023.

    As the delimitation process went on, the Karnataka government issued a draft notification on 23 June 2022, increasing the number of wards of BBMP from 198 to 243. 

    This was again followed by sharp criticism from political parties and civil society groups and over 3,800 objections were filed. After considering these, the government issued a final notification on 14 July, changing the names and redrawing boundaries of certain wards but maintaining the final number at 243.

    Subsequently, a batch of petitioners approached the High Court with pleas against the state government's power over delimitation of wards and implementation reservation. According to the pleas, the state should not have the powers to do either of the exercises. In the meantime, the government completed the delimitation and announced the reservation list.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Is the Reservation Issue?

    The elections got delayed also because the state government came up with a questionable reservation list for wards.

    The Karnataka High Court on Friday, 30 September, set aside a notification issued by the government because, according to the court, the state government had "randomly" classified certain wards as those reserved for BCs and women. Out of the 243 wards of BBMP, 81 were reserved for Backward Classes and 120 wards were reserved for women.

    The court asked the government to redo the exercise of providing reservation to women by allocating seats in the descending order, directly proportional to the population of women in each of the wards.

    That is, wards with higher number of women would have to be classified as reserved ward for women and those with lower number of women can be allotted to other reserved categories.

    The final notification providing reservation to SC/ST, backward classes and women has to now be published on or before 30 November. The SEC has been directed to complete the election process within 30 days from the date of publishing the final notification.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Do Political Parties Think?

    There is apprehension among political parties, which believe that the BBMP polls will not be held before the Assembly elections.

    Speaking to The Quint on what Bengaluru’s civic body has faced, Congress spokesperson Kavitha Reddy said, “The BBMP is controlled by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) since the Bangalore Development department lies with him. So, who else can we question about this?”

    “In every zone they have placed a nodal officer, so by default – a super-corporator. But the entire political power lies with the MLA of that area. The nodal officer is like a rubber stamp of the MLA. And that’s exactly what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs want,” Reddy said.

    She added, “Even the ward committees have only been able to do basic work – like filling up some potholes, but have not been able to focus on the city’s management.”

    Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) media spokesperson from Bengaluru, Ashok Mruthyunjaya, said, “On paper, there are nodal officers, who are supposed to run the show. But unfortunately, MLAs and former corporators are running the show. The people don’t know whom to reach out to for civic issues. Moreover, the works are happening from a political perspective.”

    The AAP spokesperson added:

    “Currently, the BJP government is not willing to contest or conduct the elections. They know they haven’t given anything in BBMP and there is rampant corruption. With these things in mind, if the election happens, the BJP will not win.”

    He added, “They will deliberately try to postpone the elections. The BJP will appeal to the HC bench and say that the reservation list is not complete and seek additional time. These are procedural delays. They will use all legal loopholes to play around this.”

    However, disagreeing with the allegations, BJP leader and former deputy mayor S Harish told The Quint, “The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act was done to decentralise the council – to give more power to local body. So, the first contact person in any constituency will be a corporator. One MLA cannot take care of seven wards or more. It is always better to decentralise.”

    Explaining how the BBMP has been functioning, the BJP leader said, “I don’t think there is a major difference. The city has not come to a standstill, garbage gets picked, roads get cleaned. Infrastructure work is happening.”

    However, he added, “It will of course be better for corporators to be elected. The work could have been done faster, we could have planned more infrastructure, and could have given more focus to health and education.”

    Expand
  5. 5. Will the 31 December Deadline Be Adhered to ?

    BJP leader Harish told The Quint that since the High Court has given the order, the government will adhere to it and notify the corrected reservation lists on or before 30 November.

    However, AAP spokesperson Ashok pointed out that because there will not be just one person eyeing the ticket, “both political parties, BJP and Congress, know that if they give one person the ticket to fight elections, others will rebel. This will impact the result of the Assembly elections, so they want it to happen after the Assembly polls.”

    Meanwhile, Reddy raised the corruption charges against the ruling government, citing allegations by Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, which stated that up to 40 percent of the project cost is asked for as bribe by government officers and other elected representatives.

    She stated, “In the last three years, the commissioner of Bangalore has been changed multiple times. Why? Is it because the officers are incompetent or BJP’s agenda is not being met? Is it because they are raising the issue of corruption?”

    “If the government doesn’t notify the reservation list, then the elections can’t happen. Moreover, the local body has to be elected six months before the Assembly polls – but if they don’t announce (the polls) by maybe last week of October, the rule won’t be followed,” Reddy said.

    She insisted that “there is a big question on the intent of the government.”

    Whether the Bommai government is able to adhere to the court’s deadline or not, the city of Bangalore continues to suffer the lack of a properly elected and an efficient municipal council.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

History & BBMP’s Structure

With the population expansion in Bangalore in the past few decades, the BBMP has faced a barrage of problems including repeated allegations of corruption. Structural changes, in terms of new wards or decentralisation of BBMP, have been recommended on multiple occasions.

2015: An expert committee for BBMP restructuring was constituted and it put forward certain suggestions.

Based on the population growth in Bengaluru from 2001 to 2011, the committee recommended that the city have 400 wards and five decentralised Municipal Corporations. Each ward in the city's outskirts was recommended to have a population of about 20,000 persons and in the core areas of the city, each ward could have 30,000 people.

However, despite the recommendations, the delimitation exercise could not be undertaken until 2020.

24 September 2020: The state Legislative Assembly passed Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill to increase the number of civic wards in Bengaluru to at total of 250.

6 October 2020: The then Chief Minister of Karnataka BS Yediyurappa approved the select committee’s decision and, going by numerology, agreed to have 243 wards. The committee was then tasked with the division of older wards to form 243 new wards.

10 December 2020: BS Yediyurappa's government passed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Bill, 2020 in the Karnataka legislature. The BBMP Act, which now governs the municipal corporation, made several changes to BBMP’s structure.

For instance, the term length of the mayor and the deputy mayor was increased to five years from one year and number of zones was increased from eight to 15.

More importantly, the BBMP Act gave the state government, and not an independent commission, the powers to delimit wards.

The BBMP is currently run by an administrator, a chief commissioner, and nodal officers for each ward, appointed by the Basavaraj Bommai-led government. There have also been allegations that the MLAs of the ruling government and the former corporators are now running the show.

ADVERTISEMENT

Why Have the Elections Been Delayed?

The elections have been delayed due to multiple legal battles revolving around the delimitation exercise and the state government’s reservation list for BBMP elections announced in August this year. Also, there are less than six months left for Karnataka Assembly elections. It is speculated that neither the ruling government nor the Opposition would want to test electoral waters before the crucial state elections scheduled for 2023.

As the delimitation process went on, the Karnataka government issued a draft notification on 23 June 2022, increasing the number of wards of BBMP from 198 to 243. 

This was again followed by sharp criticism from political parties and civil society groups and over 3,800 objections were filed. After considering these, the government issued a final notification on 14 July, changing the names and redrawing boundaries of certain wards but maintaining the final number at 243.

Subsequently, a batch of petitioners approached the High Court with pleas against the state government's power over delimitation of wards and implementation reservation. According to the pleas, the state should not have the powers to do either of the exercises. In the meantime, the government completed the delimitation and announced the reservation list.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Is the Reservation Issue?

The elections got delayed also because the state government came up with a questionable reservation list for wards.

The Karnataka High Court on Friday, 30 September, set aside a notification issued by the government because, according to the court, the state government had "randomly" classified certain wards as those reserved for BCs and women. Out of the 243 wards of BBMP, 81 were reserved for Backward Classes and 120 wards were reserved for women.

The court asked the government to redo the exercise of providing reservation to women by allocating seats in the descending order, directly proportional to the population of women in each of the wards.

That is, wards with higher number of women would have to be classified as reserved ward for women and those with lower number of women can be allotted to other reserved categories.

The final notification providing reservation to SC/ST, backward classes and women has to now be published on or before 30 November. The SEC has been directed to complete the election process within 30 days from the date of publishing the final notification.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Do Political Parties Think?

There is apprehension among political parties, which believe that the BBMP polls will not be held before the Assembly elections.

Speaking to The Quint on what Bengaluru’s civic body has faced, Congress spokesperson Kavitha Reddy said, “The BBMP is controlled by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) since the Bangalore Development department lies with him. So, who else can we question about this?”

“In every zone they have placed a nodal officer, so by default – a super-corporator. But the entire political power lies with the MLA of that area. The nodal officer is like a rubber stamp of the MLA. And that’s exactly what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs want,” Reddy said.

She added, “Even the ward committees have only been able to do basic work – like filling up some potholes, but have not been able to focus on the city’s management.”

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) media spokesperson from Bengaluru, Ashok Mruthyunjaya, said, “On paper, there are nodal officers, who are supposed to run the show. But unfortunately, MLAs and former corporators are running the show. The people don’t know whom to reach out to for civic issues. Moreover, the works are happening from a political perspective.”

The AAP spokesperson added:

“Currently, the BJP government is not willing to contest or conduct the elections. They know they haven’t given anything in BBMP and there is rampant corruption. With these things in mind, if the election happens, the BJP will not win.”

He added, “They will deliberately try to postpone the elections. The BJP will appeal to the HC bench and say that the reservation list is not complete and seek additional time. These are procedural delays. They will use all legal loopholes to play around this.”

However, disagreeing with the allegations, BJP leader and former deputy mayor S Harish told The Quint, “The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act was done to decentralise the council – to give more power to local body. So, the first contact person in any constituency will be a corporator. One MLA cannot take care of seven wards or more. It is always better to decentralise.”

Explaining how the BBMP has been functioning, the BJP leader said, “I don’t think there is a major difference. The city has not come to a standstill, garbage gets picked, roads get cleaned. Infrastructure work is happening.”

However, he added, “It will of course be better for corporators to be elected. The work could have been done faster, we could have planned more infrastructure, and could have given more focus to health and education.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Will the 31 December Deadline Be Adhered to ?

BJP leader Harish told The Quint that since the High Court has given the order, the government will adhere to it and notify the corrected reservation lists on or before 30 November.

However, AAP spokesperson Ashok pointed out that because there will not be just one person eyeing the ticket, “both political parties, BJP and Congress, know that if they give one person the ticket to fight elections, others will rebel. This will impact the result of the Assembly elections, so they want it to happen after the Assembly polls.”

Meanwhile, Reddy raised the corruption charges against the ruling government, citing allegations by Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, which stated that up to 40 percent of the project cost is asked for as bribe by government officers and other elected representatives.

She stated, “In the last three years, the commissioner of Bangalore has been changed multiple times. Why? Is it because the officers are incompetent or BJP’s agenda is not being met? Is it because they are raising the issue of corruption?”

“If the government doesn’t notify the reservation list, then the elections can’t happen. Moreover, the local body has to be elected six months before the Assembly polls – but if they don’t announce (the polls) by maybe last week of October, the rule won’t be followed,” Reddy said.

She insisted that “there is a big question on the intent of the government.”

Whether the Bommai government is able to adhere to the court’s deadline or not, the city of Bangalore continues to suffer the lack of a properly elected and an efficient municipal council.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from south-india

Topics:  Bengaluru   Bangalore   KARNATAKA 

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