Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai on Friday introduced a Bill in Lok Sabha that proposes to unify the three municipal corporations in Delhi, ANI reported.

The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, cleared by the Cabinet on Tuesday, seeks to merge the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation. The corporation was trifurcated in 2012 by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government. At that time, the Congress had said it wanted to decentralise power for better governance.

The Bill was opposed by Revolutionary Socialist Party member NK Premachandran, Congress members Gaurav Gogoi and Manish Tiwari, Bahujan Samaj Party member Ritesh Pandey on Friday. They argued Parliament was overreaching its legislative authority to amend the bill.

Premchandran said that since the Bill was passed by the Delhi Assembly, therefore Parliament cannot pass a law to merge the three civic bodies. Pandey submitted that the Constitution gave powers to the states to constitute municipal corporations, reported PTI.

Meanwhile, Gogoi claimed that the Centre’s move to merge the trifurcated corporations is an “attack on the federal structure of the constitution”.

But, Rai said that Parliament has the right to make laws regarding all concerned matters for the Union Territory under Article 239AA of the Constitution to add, amend, vary or repeal any law so made by the Legislative Assembly.

“Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, is in no way a violation of the provisions in the Constitution,” he added. “The Bill in the Lok Sabha said it is in favour of citizens of Delhi.”

AAP opposes bifurcation

Aam Aadmi Party leaders said that the unification of municipal corporations could have been done in the last few years, as the Bharatiya Janata Party has been in power in the Centre since 2014. But, the party claimed, the BJP is doing it now to postpone civic elections because they know they will not win.

BJP leaders, however, have maintained that the move will prevent “the demise of ambitious civic schemes”.

“Trifurcation of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi was uneven in terms of territorial divisions and revenue generating potential,” the Bill said in its Statement of Objects and Reasons, PTI reported. “As a result, there was huge gap in the resources available to the three corporations compared to their obligations.”

Over the years, the Bill added, the gap has only increased and led to delay in the payment of salaries and retirement benefits. This has also resulted in frequent strikes by employees and hit civic services, it said.

“The experience of the last 10 years shows that the main objective of trifurcation of creating compact municipalities in Delhi to provide more efficient civic services to the public has not been achieved,” the Bill claimed.

Meanwhile, the unified municipal corporation of Delhi will not have more than 250 wards and a “special officer” might be appointed to oversee its functioning till the first meeting of the body is held under the reunification law, the Bill on the merger said, according to PTI. At present, the three corporations have 272 wards.

The current terms of the three municipal bodies will end between May 18 and 22. The municipal corporation elections were scheduled to be held in April. However, on March 9, the Election Commission deferred the polling indefinitely, citing a communication from Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

Arvind Kejriwal criticises BJP

On Thursday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal castigated the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Assembly for postponing civic body elections.

“The nation won’t tolerate the drama they’re doing,” he said. “They [the BJP] say they are the largest party in the world. We are the smallest. Still, they got scared! Largest party got scared of the smallest. Contest polls if you have the courage.”

On Wednesday too, the Aam Aadmi Party chief had challenged the BJP to conduct the elections on time. He said his party would quit politics if the BJP did so and wins the polls.

“Is the Election Commission so fickle that the BJP can make it defer elections in the name of unification of civic bodies?” he asked.