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Cabinet approves merger of three Delhi municipal corporations

Cabinet approves merger of three Delhi municipal corporations
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New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday gave its nod to a Bill to merge the three municipal corporations in Delhi, a move that is likely to escalate the ongoing power struggle between the BJP and the AAP ahead of the high-stakes civic polls.

The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill is expected to be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament underway, sources in the union government said. The amendment provides for a unified municipal corporation of Delhi by subsuming the existing three corporations where the BJP is in power since 2012. The BJP was also in power from 2007 to 2012 in the erstwhile unified MCD.

The politically-significant decision was described by Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) as "tactics" to delay civic elections, but it asserted that the merger move will not make any difference to its poll prospects, claiming Delhiites have made up their mind to oust the BJP from power in the civic bodies.

Delhi state BJP leaders believed that the merger will help the party attempt an image make-over and tackle anti-incumbency when the civic polls are held.

Sources in the Union government said the unified municipal corporation will be a well-equipped entity for optimum and even utilisation of financial resources which will reduce mounting liabilities, expenditure on the functioning of the three municipal corporations and improve the civic services of the national capital.

The erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi(MCD) was trifurcated into three municipal corporations - South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in 2011.

At the Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, some more amendments were also cleared in the principal Act of 1957 to ensure more robust delivery architecture for greater transparency, improved governance and more efficient delivery of civic services for the people of Delhi, sources said.

The sources said the trifurcation of the corporation was uneven in terms of the territorial divisions and revenue-generating potential of each corporation and as a result there was a huge gap in the resources available to the three corporations, vis-a-vis their obligations.

The gap widened over a period of time, increasing the financial...difficulties of the three municipal corporations, leaving them incapacitated to make timely payment of salaries and retirement benefits to their employees, creating serious impediments in maintaining civic services in Delhi, the sources said, citing the reasons behind the move.

The AAP-led Delhi government and the BJP-ruled municipal corporations have been at loggerheads over funding issues on several occasions in the past.

The polls for the 272 wards of the three civic bodies are due in April this year but there is no clarity from the State Election Commission(SEC) yet whether the dates for the municipal elections would be deferred.

The SEC had deferred the announcement of the election schedule for the civic bodies. The schedule was to be announced on March 9.

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