Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party can't speak for India's cities

Dec 30 2013, 13:40 IST
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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal speaks to media at Secretariat building in New Delhi. (PTI) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal speaks to media at Secretariat building in New Delhi. (PTI)
SummarySize of megalopolises and their puny political fist has engendered space for Arvind Kejriwal's AAP, others.

At the heart of the switchover to Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by the Delhi electorate is a broader political question that urban Indians are demanding an answer for. It is the question about who speaks for their socio-economic needs.

The six megalopolises account for over 23 per cent of India’s urban population. Even more significantly, the income of these six cities is more than the GDP of Pakistan or of Thailand, as a recent paper by the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research shows. The paper shows each of them is now equivalent to that of the economies of good-sized countries, when measured by PPP dollars. For instance, Mumbai is within striking distance of Finland and the smallest of them Hyderabad is up there with Uruguay.

Within India too each of these cities now occupies a disproportionate percentage of their state GDP. For example the municipal revenue of Mumbai is 38 per cent of Maharashtra state GDP. Bangalore is at 31 per cent.

These are massive numbers. Yet these cities together account for only 48 members in the two houses of our Parliament. For obvious reasons the political leadership of any state will not be comfortable with giving the leaders of any cities larger independence as it will be a huge threat to their position.

This is creating a huge and rapidly growing dissonance between the economic and political heft of these cities even as they are rapidly transforming themselves into India’s future political theatre. Worse, they undermine the quality of governance of these cities which is the reason why they score so badly on global indices of quality of living.

Yet it is these gap between the size of these cities and their puny political fist which has engendered the space for AAP and future others. To the urban citizens the problem becomes visible when they see the multiple of agencies meant to service them but mostly locked in internecine squabbles. It is enough evidence reason for the population to get frustrated, even without any hint of corruption.

The CPR paper shows that even for water and sanitation, except Delhi none of the other five have less than three agencies to service them. There are eight bodies in Bangalore for making policy and guide industries. Mumbai has over twenty. And all these while for rural areas the state and central governments have agreed they need a

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