A Letter to All Political Parties in Telangana in View of Forthcoming Municipal Elections

Elections have beecome the preserve of ultra-rich

15th July, 2019

Sir,

There are going to be elections in the state of Telangana for the municipalities and corporations very soon and they will be followed by elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation also under a new Act.

Naturally, all parties would be nominating their candidates to be councillors and corporators.  We wish you success in your party’s efforts, notwithstanding the fact that we are not sure that political parties should be involved in local self-governing communities.

Now, on behalf of a number of civil society organisations, we want to bring to your attention two important matters that would not only improve enormously the chances of your candidates to win with wide support, but would also reduce largely the scope for grievances and corruption, thereby strengthening democracy in municipal governance.

Firstly, your candidates should understand that 80% of urban citizens, on an average, are better educated, qualified, experienced and competent in many matters than your candidates and that they are in general, very much interested in improving the quality of life in the area, without indulging in party and group politics.

But, during the election campaigns, the candidates nominated by the parties are shy of approaching them to seek their votes and, instead concentrate upon a few areas where there is a thick population of low-income groups, whom they can attract with promises of fulfilling all their wishes. As a consequence, more than 65% of the urban citizens are not voting, as a consequence of which an elected candidate gets a very small percentage of votes out of a vast population of the ward.

We appeal to you to select better candidates, who resemble the average local urban citizen, and if possible somebody who can be respected for his or her personal qualities, competencies and achievements.

Hence, we appeal to you to select better candidates, who resemble the average local urban citizen, and if possible somebody who can be respected for his or her personal qualities, competencies and achievements. Such persons are in plenty in each ward in the city and they are willing to participate, only if your party has the capacity to attract them. Mere party symbols, not even money and liquour would not attract the urban citizens to go out and vote.

Secondly, we have a very progressive and democratic municipal law which introduced Ward Committees and Area Sabhas in 2008, and they might be called differently in 2019, which would invite the direct participation of the citizens belonging to the registered associations and NGOs, which include resident welfare associations, retired senior citizens associations, retired government officers, pensioners’ associations, local Mahila mandalis, youth associations, Rotary and Lions clubs, chapters of professions such as engineers, doctors, health care, accountancy, professors and teachers, basti committees, association of domestic helpers, and those who are active in games and sports, and in cultural organisations. And half among them have to be women.

But, unfortunately, judging from the bitter experience of GHMC, the elected councillors and corporators have been totally ignoring them in favour of a few of their relatives and party workers. There have been no meetings and no sabhas in many places. The municipal commissioners are unable to implement the law in its spirit, in spite of strictures and instructions from the High Court, more than once. As a consequence, the urban citizens who have many personal resources, and who pay taxes which finance all welfare measures by the political leaders, lack avenues to fight against corruption, inefficiency, and poor quality of the municipal services. Hence, we are not suffering from a deficit in democracy on the part of the urban citizen, but due to their alienation from the urban local communities.

We also appeal to you to instruct your candidates to commit themselves openly while campaigning to respect the spirit of the Ward Committees and the Area Sabhas

Hence, we appeal to you to instruct your candidates to commit themselves openly while campaigning to respect the spirit of the Ward Committees and the Area Sabhas and facilitate the effective functioning and direct participation of the citizens. Eventually, this should be reflected in the party manifesto for the municipal and corporation elections.

We will appreciate very much if your secretariat could give us any indication that this appeal has been brought to your attention.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,
Rao V.B.J. Chelikani,  former functionary of UNESCO, Paris.