Let citizens elect Mayors as Executive Head of government at city level.
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To improve accountability in governance, let citizens elect Mayors as Executive Head of government at city level.
In the recently concluded elections of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) out of 227 seats Shivsena secured 84 seats and BJP secured 82 seats and the remaining seats were won by other political parties. The administrative records of BMC are hardly encouraging. The corruption is rampant at all the levels and there is hardly any inbuilt system of checks and balances with total lack of transparency.
Soon after the elections there was election amongst the counsellors for Mayor’s post and for various committees including for chairmanship of the committees. The Mayor is elected for a short tenure of one year and he is a mere name sake head without any real executive powers. Virtually the city with a population of 12 million, has no responsible head of govt. There is no accountability whatsoever, our name sake Mayor will be replaced next year.
By the time he is able to acquire even a partial grasp of the problems facing the city, his term of office gets over and he is due to be replaced by his successor. Similar is the case with the Chairmen of the designated Committees. Mostly mayor’s post as well as other posts of Committee Chairman is the subject of bargaining among the various political parties.
Our mayors are mainly show-pieces without having any wider popular backing. In fact, on most occasions, citizens in our large metropolitan cities do not even remember the names of their mayors. Their main role remains restricted to attend the social and civil functions and perform the inauguration ceremonies. At times, they also attend mayoral conferences in other cities. Besides, they are also eager to avail of every possible opportunity for a free trip abroad.
Our present system of functioning of municipal bodies, which provides for the election of mere show-piece Mayors for a short period without any real executive powers, also has not created the conducive environment for the development of effective leadership qualities. A leading metropolitan city like ‘Mumbai’ having a population of over 14 million cannot boast of a single person with a mass backing.
Direct election of a mayor for a fixed tenure and providing him with wide executive powers (with necessary checks and balances by the municipal councilors), would go a long way in attracting better personalities for the elective office as is the case in all cities in the U.S.A., Germany etc. Even city of London has a directly elected mayor. In the process, such a system is apt to bring about a better caliber of leadership which would, in due course of time, be groomed for higher responsible elective positions. A mayor elected for a term of office of four or five years with freedom to induct the best talent in his team will provide him ample scope to prove his mettle giving him enough confidence and as a result, he is apt to aspire for a higher position on the strength of his performance.
The role of Municipal Councilors should be to provide a check on the Mayor and his team apart from representing the constituency from which they are elected.
It is heartening to find that as a step in the right direction Shri Shashi Tharoor Congress MP has introduced a bill in the parliament calling for the direct election of Mayor for fixed tenure and provide him with executive powers.
This move will accelerate a start from the city level in getting an efficient and corruption free government for which this forum has been making concerted efforts.
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(Convenor for Forum for Presidential Democracy)
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