Directly Elected Mayor

A simple fact is that any village in India, (howsoever remote it may be, with its people having sparse means and little opportunity to earn a livelihood), has a more empowered and democratic local government than the metropolis of Mumbai. Following the 73rd Amendment, democracy has been taken at the local government level in rural India but the 74th Amendment, prescribing the same for urban areas is yet to be implemented.

The ludicrousness of Mumbai’s current structure is such that our elected representative has no authority to govern the city. The executive powers in the city are vested in the Municipal Commissioner who is a bureaucrat appointed by the State and therefore answerable to the State. He is neither directly responsible nor accountable to the Mumbaites. Also over a period of time it has been seen that the State has assumed more & more roles in municipal governance (often directly or by creating Para statal agencies like the MMRDA, MAHDA, PWD etc.) The entire system is a mockery of democracy.

Feroz Daruwallah invested a fortune in the shares of a company. Since the past four years it was making losses. The perturbed Feroz decided to find out what was going wrong. On inquiring he realized that the company had an appointed CEO who was not accountable and empowered. There were numerous appointed Vice Presidents who were squabbling amongst themselves on trivial issues. The miserable Feroz realized that at this rate the company would have to shut down.

Hearing of Feroz’s troubles, his friend Amit, decided to help. He asked Feroz to arrange a meeting of the shareholders. When the assembly learned of the situation they decided to pressurize the management into electing an empowered managing director (Leader). Other appeals like disclosure norms, transparency and accountability were also implemented. Soon Feroz’s investment and efforts started paying dividends. 
 
 Like Feroz and others, Mumbai also needs to raise its voice. We require an elected, empowered leader to run this great city. He should have a transparent and accountable administration, which can deliver.  The third tier of governance (at the city level) has to have independent functioning, on the lines of relations between Union & State governments. This is only possible if this layer is also fully democratized, as in the case of Union & State executives. 

Under the prevailing system the Mayor is indirectly elected by 227 directly elected Municipal Councilors. The Mayor has no executive powers and his survival is dependent on the 227 corporators. 
Indirect election does not bring with it direct accountability to the citizens. The day-to-day life of the citizens depend upon actions, policies and activities of the local government and therefore unless the leader of the city local government is made accountable to them, the push and pull of the power will not enable the leader to deliver.
VOTEMUMBAI therefore supports the idea of having a directly elected, fully empowered Mayor with checks, balances and accountability tools to guarantee transparency and administration.

The proposed campaign advocates the Mayor to have all the executive powers, which are at present vested with the Municipal Commissioner. The Commissioner remains an administrative functionary who reports to the Mayor and functions as per his directives.

This system compels the Mayoral candidate to perform and encourages good behavior. Direct elections of a fully empowered Mayor will distill the system to bring forth candidates who can perform and make a real difference. Money and muscle cannot be used as incentives to vote in this system. A particular locality can be bribed or threatened to elect a candidate but it is impossible to induce an entire city.

The corporators of Mumbai selected Raghu Deshpande as Mayor( indirectly elected). A recent campaign in the city had changed the power equation so that the Mayor became empowered. The excited Raghu began to plan for his tenure for he believed that the city required tremendous changes and he now had the power to make it possible.
As days passed by corporators would come to him with different demands, pressurize him to pass certain tenders and threaten to pull him out of Mayorship on various occasions. By the end of the first year Raghu realized that all his energies were directed towards keeping the corporators happy instead of looking at the general welfare of the people. If Raghu was directly elected by the people he would be directly answerable to them. He would be forced to perform in order to be re-elected.

Thus VOTEMUMBAI demands for direct democracy at the city level so that the leader of the city is directly accountable to the people of the city rather than the corporators.

Along with heading the BMC, the Mayor will also become an ex-officio member of the Municipal Accounts Committee, the Municipal Town Planning Committee, the Disaster Management Committee and other functional committees. The Commissioner will work under the directions of the Mayor. Special Agencies like MSRDC, MAHDA etc and Central Agencies like MBPT & Railways, AAI, Defense etc will work in co-ordination with the Mayor and Municipality.

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