Friday, July 27, 2012

Lessons from Shimla: Direct Election of Mayor in India

Bhanu Joshi

The outcome of elections held in one of India’s oldest Municipal Corporation, the Shimla Municipal Corporation had some important lessons for other Indian cities. The Mayor of the hill town was to be directly elected by the residents of the city after an amendment was made to the Municipal Corporation Act in 2010. The Congress which had dominated the Corporation since 1986 was stunned out of majority. The BJP which had hoped to use to its advantage the new law it passed for direct elections to the posts of Mayors and Deputy Mayors had to be content with 12 of the 25 seats in the Corporation Council. The CPI(M) Mayoral candidate Sanjay Chauhan won by 7868 more votes than his BJP counterpart; this when of Shimla’s estimated electorate of about 84,000, 64% turned up and 40% voted for Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Panwar  of the CPI(M) for Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s post. Even though the corporation is not dominated by the BJP & Congress, electors opting for different candidates for the Mayor’s post beckon analysis.The Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act 2010 provided for direct election of Mayor to the corporations in Himachal Pradesh and removed the no confidence motion clause, which is different from Rajasthan which adopted for direct election last year but the directly elected mayor can be removed by bringing a motion of no confidence after one year of his election. Even though the functions & powers of the Mayor weren’t ‘enhanced’ in the Himachal Pradesh Amendment, the newspaper reports are full of Sanjay Chauhan’s enthusiasm and his declared objective of making the Corporation “Mayor-centric” rather than “Commissioner-centric” and thus rendering the position politically accountable.