What happens when legislators make roads and not laws?

The Government and its MLAs had been running the Corporation through executive orders in the absence of councillors. Legislators are meant to make laws. What happens when they make roads, instead? People expect elected representatives to serve them. Ignorance of the functions of elected representatives distorts people’s expectations. Elected representatives too appear ignorant of their functions. Hence, they strive to cater to these expectations. A perception exists that elected representatives are to produce tangible, goods / services, such as roads, water supply, etc. Hence, representatives attempt to claim credit for meeting these expectations.

This is more the rule rather than the exception. Almost all legislators claim credit for such achievements. One does not know what a MLA does to ensure that the corporation asphalts a road. Is asphalting a road the function of a MLA? The MLA, perhaps, interferes with the corporation’s works-plan in order to see that roads in his / her constituency are asphalted, first.

This is a typical example of the legislature intruding into the domain of the executive. The role and functions of legislatures and executive governments are thus blurred. They are now indistinguishable. This is disastrous for democracy. When the legislature, which is meant to make laws and oversee the adherence to the laws by the executive, takes up executive functions, it cannot but be at the cost and detriment of the responsibility for oversight. The legislature is then no longer the watchdog for ensuring good governance, but a participant in governance. That a participant cannot discharge the responsibility of superintendence should be obvious.

Elected representatives swear by the Constitution. Yet, they violate it with impunity. Article 243 intended to devolve powers to municipalities, to make them vibrant, self-governing instruments of democracy. Legislators who swear by the Constitution have violated their oath for over fifteen years.  Successive State governments have not only, not implemented its provisions, but have continuously sabotaged its purposes, by retaining all powers using various devices. Repeated attempts to postpone BBMP council elections, is part of this circumvention of Constitutional provisions.

There is a new breed of aspirants to elected office. They hope to mimic the behaviour of present representatives in taking on the mantle of the executive branch. These prospective candidates are from the resident welfare associations [RWAs]. The Corporation council has neither legislative nor executive authority. Most people are ignorant of the functions of the Council. The corporation functions through the Mayor and “Standing Committees”, both elected by the council. Their powers are non-executive in nature.

Councillors have been indulging in executive roles. They call officials and give orders. These are obeyed, to avoid incurring the wrath of the councillors, MLAs, and the Government. The Commissioner is the executive of the Corporation. MLAs and councillors have taken over the executive role. It is this blurring of roles between the executive and legislative branches of government that is at the root of all corruption and inefficiency. One motivation for elected representatives to play the executive role is to showcase tangibles, such as a park, as their achievement. In taking on the executive role, the representatives have discarded their power to question inefficiency of the executive. When oversight is absent, the executive becomes corrupt and inefficient.

The prospect of imminent elections had generated excitement among RWAs. Some of them had hoped to set up independent candidates. The rationale behind this decision is the hope that these candidates would do a “better job”, as councillors. The chances of an independent RWA candidate finding a place in any committee are remote. They do not have backing of MLAs. Hence, they cannot influence officials. Given this scenario, the twin motivations behind the RWA sponsorship of candidates for the Corporation elections are misdirected.

The optimism of winning, by garnering urban middle class votes is misplaced. This hope is derived by erroneous calculations. It underestimates political parties and ignores the fact that parties are accidents of history. Political parties are established and nurtured through historical events by high calibre leaders, over long periods. It is not easy to dislodge them. Middle class voter apathy is well known. Voters could be influenced by their political affiliations and personal loyalties to other candidates.

About fifteen RWA representatives indicated their wish lists recently. Clearing garbage was top priority for them. Twelve of them had this on the “Top of their minds”. A few gave ill-informed, hilarious suggestions such as, “home outside the city, exclusively for stray dogs” [!], “Only educated candidates should contest” and “Need for good officers in all departments”. They are apparently unaware of Article 243. None referred to “Urban planning, regulation of land use, planning for economic and social development, slum improvement, urban poverty alleviation and promotion of education”. No one mentioned illegal constructions or Sakrama. They seemed blissfully ignorant. 

Separation of the executive and legislative branches is imperative. This would not be achieved by setting up RWA candidates for elections. People, as a Fifth Estate, would do well to act jointly with the Third and Fourth Estates in ensuring that the Constitutional intent of separation of executive and legislature is restored.

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