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How Modi govt’s MCD overhaul fits into BJP plan to corner AAP in Delhi civic polls

While the Centre is overseeing a massive overhaul of unified municipal corporation in Delhi, BJP is taking on AAP over civic issues, including alleged problems in water supply.

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New Delhi: The Union government and the Delhi BJP are working to overhaul and showcase Delhi’s unified municipal corporation as a new ‘model of governance’ for countering the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on civic issues.

Following the appointment of senior IAS officers Ashwani Kumar and Gyanesh Bharti as the special officer and commissioner, the unified municipal corporation has introduced new initiatives, including setting up of a corruption complaint cell, a helpline number, and an e-mail address for citizens to raise complaints against corruption.

Kumar will run the civic body until a fresh election is held to elect a new House.

Not only this, the civic body also launched a Jan-Sunwai (public hearing) campaign on 3 June. The public hearings on weekdays are held at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) headquarters and zonal offices.

All three bodies — North, South and East Delhi municipal corporations — were controlled by the BJP, which retained them in 2017, before their reunification in May. The BJP has controlled the civic bodies, which were trifurcated by the erstwhile Congress government in 2012, for 15 years.

In the past, the three corporations have faced flak for corruption, red tape, and not doing enough on road upkeep, maintenance of drains, and checking unauthorised construction in the city.

Sources in the BJP had told ThePrint in March that the reunification decision was hastened by a survey conducted internally by the party last October that showed the AAP trending ahead of the BJP. The AAP’s resounding victory in Punjab earlier this year was also said to have played a role.

Earlier this month, Lt Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena also instructed MCD officials to meet people to address their grievances.

“The top MCD official reports to the L-G, with the Lt Governor being accountable to the Centre. So, the Centre is always in the loop as to the new initiatives that take place in the agency,” said a source in the government.

A senior BJP leader, who stressed that his colleagues do not interfere in the functioning of the corporation, noted that “the MCD is now completely controlled by the Centre”.

“Before the elections take place, it gives them (the Centre) an opportunity to completely overhaul the agency. The issues raised by the public, including corruption and not having public hearings, are being addressed first,” the BJP leader said.

According to a BJP source, while the Union government is focusing on improving the functioning of the civic agency, the Delhi party unit has been taking on the AAP on issues related to governance until elections are held.

The civic poll is likely to be delayed as it can only take place after a delimitation exercise is completed. The new law — Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, which reunified the civic bodies — provides for a maximum of 250 municipal wards instead of the existing 272, a senior BJP leader said.

Talking about the overhaul, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta said “corruption in the civic agency has been a major issue as far as governance is concerned”.

“PM Narendra Modi has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, and he has always worked for the welfare of the people. The way a unified MCD is working shows his commitment towards good governance,” he added. “We had met the Lt Governor and had given several suggestions on improving the overall functioning of the civic agency. We are also happy that he has taken several initiatives.”

Also Read: Gujarat is no Delhi. Challenge goes beyond ‘development’—contesting Modi’s iconic image

Water issues on BJP’s agenda

The Delhi unit of the BJP has claimed the city’s water problem this summer is being resolved by the party’s government in Haryana, and not the AAP.

“The Haryana government has been providing more water than what is required as per the agreement (between Delhi and Haryana). The water crisis in Delhi is due to mismanagement and leakages, which have not been rectified by the AAP government. We had met the Haryana CM and he had assured us full cooperation on our request,” Gupta said.

Days after a delegation of Delhi leaders met Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, requesting him to supply water to the city, Gupta Tuesday urged Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to get water samples tested from at least 100 locations alleging that the water being supplied in various parts is “contaminated”.

Water comes under the Delhi government’s jurisdiction and the idea was to corner the AAP on its administrative performance.  ThePrint reached a Delhi government spokesperson through texts for a comment, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: More power to mayor, less to AAP govt: Why BJP is pushing to reunite 3 Delhi municipal bodies

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