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Municipal Mess – From MCD to BMC, paralysis of urban local bodies undermines local governance and democracy

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein


Source: ToI 

Context: For the third time in a month the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) failed to elect its mayor after AAP and BJP councillors again engaged in a row over the election process.



  • This MCD conflict is an extension of the years-long tussle between the two parties over the administration of the national capital.
  • Given the complex governance system in place in Delhi, the state and the central governments ought to cooperate, but this goal has proven challenging in the era of intense political competition.


What’s the ongoing issue in the MCD?

  • The Presiding Officer (a BJP councillor) for the mayoral election said that aldermen (nominated members) are allowed to vote in the House and elect the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and members of the Standing Committee.
  • However, the AAP had expressed apprehension, as they claim that aldermen do not have voting rights under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.
  • In the absence of a mayor, major decisions related to policy matters, development works and projects that require big financial investment are


Case of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC): An astonishing 22 of 28 municipal corporations in Maharashtra (including the country’s richest civic body – BMC) have seen their terms expire with fresh polls nowhere in sight.


Examining urban local governance in India:

  • The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 has introduced (Part IX A Article 243 P to ZG] and Schedule XII) in the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of urban local bodies (ULBs) as institutions of local self-government.
  • It has empowered state governments to devolve the responsibility of 18 functions including urban planning, regulation of land use, water supply, etc., and made periodic elections compulsory for them.
  • Urban governance is part of the state list under the Constitution. Thus, the administrative framework and regulation of ULBs vary across states.
  • Experts have highlighted that ULBs across India face similar challenges. For instance, lacking autonomy, city-level functions are managed by parastatals, devolution of powers is incomplete (lacks taxation powers – stressed municipal finances), irregular elections, etc.
  • These challenges have led to poor service delivery, severely curtailing urban governance at a time when 675 million Indians are slated to live in urban centres by 2035.


Key suggestions to improve urban local governance in India:

  • Constitutional amendments (for making devolution of powers mandatory and setting the accountability of state governments – ULBs) to achieve objectives of urban decentralisation.
  • Supporting reform-linked investments (on asset creation as well as management) is needed for different states based on the level of urbanisation.
  • Inter-government transfers should have in-built incentives to improve performance.
  • Integrate various urban development programs (including capacity building) at local, state and national levels to develop sustainable city or metropolitan regions.
  • Strengthen urban institutions and clarify the roles of different organisations.
  • The second generation of urban reforms should further focus on regulation, innovative financing and PPP, and climate change initiatives.


Conclusion: In order to establish smarter cities, empowered instead of stalled local bodies are needed. Therefore, Mumbai needs municipal elections, while Delhi needs a mayor.


Insta Links:

74th Constitutional Amendment


Mains Links:

Q. “The reservation of seats for women in the institution of local self-government has had a limited impact on the patriarchal character of the Indian political process”. Comment. (UPSC 2019)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2015)

The fundamental object of the Panchayati Raj system is to ensure which among the following?

  1. People’s participation in development
  2. Political accountability
  3. Democratic decentralisation
  4. Financial mobilisation


Select the correct answer using the code given below

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 4 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4


Ans: 3