With a history of more than 500 years, Bangalore has grown well beyond the four watchtowers, installed by the city’s architect Kempe Gowda, into a sprawling metropolis. The city’s administration, that was run by a democratically elected local government since 1862, when the City Improvement Trust Board (CITB) was formed, is being managed by bureaucrats for the last three years after the term of the previous Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) Council ended in November 2006.
With the civic elections being put off again, it is not just the citizens who are missing an elected body. The bureaucrats too have started feeling its absence as they are now answerable for all flaws and lacunae in the city’s administration, which otherwise would have been the palike council’s responsibility.
What is a council?
The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which represents the third level of administration after the Central and State Governments, is run by a city council. The city council comprises elected representatives, called corporators, elected from each one of the wards (the 100 wards that existed before the formation of BBMP have now increased to 198). If the elections had been held as scheduled on February 21, the city would have 198 corporators apart from 20 members nominated by the Government.
Elections to the council are held once in five years, with results being decided by popular vote. Members contest either on a political party ticket or as independents. After the council is formed, the party that gets majority has the privilege to administer the city by choosing a Mayor and Deputy Mayor from among the party’s elected members.
Although there is a demand for a Mayor directly elected by the people and to increase the existing one-year mayoral tenure to five years, it is yet to be considered by the State Government.
The post of Mayor and Deputy Mayor are filled through a reservation quota system. In the absence of an elected body, the BBMP is at present being run by an Administrator and a Commissioner appointed by the State Government.
While the Mayor is the supreme head of the palike, the execution powers rest with the Commissioner.
The corporators prioritise works that need to be taken up in their areas and prepare a programme of works that are approved and allotted funds in the annual BBMP budget.
The council has eight standing committees — Taxation and Finance, Appeals, Education and Social Justice, Public Health, Town Planning and Development, Accounts, Works and Horticulture and Markets. Members to these committees are either elected by the council or nominated by their political parties. As per rules, every file that comes before the council has to be studied by the standing committee under which the subject falls.
Though the system is in place, not everything has been all right during the tenure of the erstwhile BMP Councils in the past. Similar to the current scenario, solid waste management was in disarray and irregularities in spending funds meant for developmental works were rampant. Several scams rocked the BMP Council meetings, including misuse of funds meant for remodelling of storm water drains, purchasing uniforms for BMP school students and footwear for pourakarmikas. Building bylaw violations were condoned and demolitions stayed. Anything and everything — from allotment of a contract for the city’s infrastructure development to the introduction of a new cess — have been approved in the council.
It was in March 1862 that the city got its first municipal government when nine prominent citizens came together to form a City Improvement Trust Board (CITB) under the Improvement of Towns Act of 1850. The Bangalore City Corporation, formed in 1949, consisted of 70 elected representatives and 50 electoral divisions. In January 2007, the State Government notified the formation of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by merging the areas under the existing BMP with seven City Municipal Councils (CMCs), one Town Municipal Council (TMC) and 111 villages around the city.
Overall, the BBMP is responsible for civic and infrastructural requirements of the city. Its roles and responsibilities include orderly development of the city, including implementation of zoning and building bylaw regulations, infrastructure development, health (it runs 23 maternity homes and six referral hospitals apart from several primary health centres), hygiene (solid waste management), licensing of trade and commercial establishments, education (it runs several schools and colleges) as well as maintenance of lung spaces, water bodies, parks and greenery.