Civic elections: unease with new municipal boundaries persists

Political leaders express fears about Dalit under-representation and uneven distribution of development funds after delimitation committee creates wards with as few as 40,000 people to as many as 89,000

Updated - November 01, 2022 12:39 pm IST

Published - November 01, 2022 01:34 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Days after the final report on the delimitation of municipal wards was notified by the Centre, the exercise has come under fire from the city’s three major political parties — the Congress, the BJP and AAP.

The parties have expressed concern over issues such as “under-representation of Dalits”, uneven distribution of development funds and “disparity” in terms of the population of wards. The Congress’ Delhi unit recently filed a petition in the High Court challenging the final report and seeking a fresh delimitation exercise.

MHA’s guidelines

According to the guidelines for the exercise issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the average population per ward — which stands at 65,679 — may not be maintained throughout and a deviation of plus or minus 10% of the area’s average population may be acceptable.

However, variations from this benchmark in the final delimitation report have been pointed out, with the delimitation committee having carved out a ward with a population as low as 40,467 (Kanjhawala) and another ward (Mayur Vihar Phase 1) with as many as 88,878 people.

With the Centre notifying the amendments to the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, in May to unify the three erstwhile municipal corporations and to reduce the total number of wards to 250 (from 272), a fresh exercise was undertaken to redraw the boundaries of the new wards under the jurisdiction of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

On July 8, a three-member delimitation committee was constituted by the Centre and given four months to complete the exercise based on the 2011 Census figures. The final report was ratified by the Centre through a gazette notification on October 17, paving the way for the civic polls, which are expected to be held before the end of the year.

Delhi Congress chief Anil Kumar, who filed the petition against the delimitation exercise, alleged that the delimitation committee has deliberately merged several wards which had a high proportion of Scheduled Caste (SC) voters to undercut the representation of Dalits.

He cited the example of the Trilokpuri Assembly (SC-reserved) constituency. “It should have four wards according to the formula followed to calculate the allotment, but only three wards have been allotted,” said Mr. Kumar. Moreover, of the four wards in the constituency, the delimitation committee chose to merge the two wards with a higher proportion of Dalits — Trilokpuri (East) and Trilokpuri (West) — into one ward (Trilokpuri), he said. The resultant ward has as many as 88,792 people, with an SC population of 47,282.

‘No ulterior motives’

Officials familiar with the drafting of the final report said that the exercise “was not politically motivated”.

“As for the alleged mismatch in population size in certain wards, it existed earlier as well. It did not arise out of the latest exercise,” an official familiar with the exercise said, adding, “We tried to abide by the guidelines wherever possible.”

Another party — AAP — has raised issues related to the disadvantage that would be faced by wards with larger populations compared to those with fewer residents, given the fact that all the wards would get equal developmental funds.

A BJP leader alleged that an attempt seemed to have been made through the final report to help AAP and the Congress in areas considered BJP’s strongholds.

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