Lawmakers should not vote for Mayor

The Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act has hit at the very foundation of local self-governance by notifying MPs, MLAs and MLCs as councillors and permitting them to vote in the election of mayors and municipal presidents, thereby negating the will of the people. Direct elections to these civic bodies have been rendered meaningless as parliamentarians and legislators can easily overturn the mandate of the voters, especially when a political party has won with a thin majority. For instance, in the BBMP, which has 198 directly-elected representatives, MPs, MLAs, MLCs – 62 of them — constitute about 31% of the electoral college.  As the MLCs do not have a fixed constituency, they are often shifted from one civic body to another as voters to manufacture an artificial majority and wrest control of the administration. Though the KMC Act does not explicitly grant voting powers to MPs and legislators, this has been achieved by a hair-splitting interpretation of one of the provisions which, incidentally, has been upheld by the Supreme Court. 

This provision of the Act is an affront to the basic structure of the Constitution which makes a clear distinction between the powers of the Centre, state, corporations and municipalities, and panchayats. It is inconceivable that lawmakers, who should be occupied with lawmaking and more important affairs of the legislature and State, are involved in local issues like garbage clearance or water supply, thereby impinging upon the domain of the councillors, who are elected for the purpose. The dominant role of MPs and legislators at civic body meetings not only undermines the authority of the directly-elected councillors but gives an impression that the government does not trust them enough to run the affairs of the city on their own. At most, legislators may be allowed to participate in the discussions without any voting rights even on civic matters.

In the true spirit of the Constitution, the state government should take immediate steps to amend the KMC Act by withdrawing the voting powers of lawmakers and restore the autonomy of civic bodies. The will of the people is supreme and subverting their verdict through the backdoor should stop forthwith as it does not behove well for democracy. The KMC Act has a provision to nominate civic experts to the corporation who currently do not enjoy voting rights. The government should consider nominating the right people as experts and empower them with voting rights only on civic issues and not in the election of the presiding officer, so that they can serve as conscience-keepers of the city. A democratic institution can perform at the optimal level only when its hands are strengthened, not tied.

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Lawmakers should not vote for Mayor

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