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Six Charts That Show Why India's Civic Bodies Matter To Politics, And Why They're Struggling

Most municipal corporations cannot run themselves.

27/04/2017 12:29 PM IST | Updated 27/04/2017 1:47 PM IST
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Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari during a press conference at Delhi BJP Office after party's victory in MCD elections.

The hard fought election to Delhi's municipal corporations might have at times resembled a state election, but the fact only underscores how important control of India's biggest municipalities is for political parties. And with good reason - while many smaller civic bodies struggle to raise money and provide services, the bigger corporations can wield enormous power.

All the data for this piece comes from the Annual Survey of City-Systems 2016, a report prepared by the Bengaluru-based urban governance research and advocacy group, Janaagraha. Data for Delhi is cumulative of the three municipal corporations.

1. Who has the most money?

India's richest municipality, by far, is Mumbai. With annual revenues of over Rs 20,000 crore, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation makes most of its money from octroi and property taxes for new constructions. The municipal corporation's revenues dwarf those of several Indian states including Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

2. Who spends the most on residents?

Raising the most money does not automatically mean spending the same amount; cities get additional funds from the state and central government, and through grants and loans from multilateral agencies. In fact, only a handful of bigger cities fund their expenditure chiefly through their own revenues.

Mumbai outspends all other cities by a mile; its per capita expenditure per citizen compared favourably with more developed cities like Johannesburg, for instance.

Most cities don't even raise enough money for their most basic function--paying staff salaries.

3. Who rules these cities?

Usually the party that is in power in the state wins the civic body elections as well, so Delhi is a notable exception.

Most major cities do not have directly elected mayors and see a high degree of bureaucratic churn--Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune saw four municipal commissioners in its last five-year period, and Chennai saw five; smaller cities were even worse off, with Raipur seeing nine commissioners off. Major cities like Mumbai still do not have full powers over taxation and cities like Chennai and Hyderabad do not have power over employees.

4. Do citizens care?

Usually, voter turnout is higher for state and general elections than for civic elections--Thiruvananthapuram and Kolkata are the two exceptions, where turnout was higher for civic elections than for the general election in 2014.

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