MCD elections 2017: Is AAP’s tax waiver promise feasible?

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New Delhi | Updated: March 27, 2017 12:06:24 PM

In the upcoming MCD elections, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP is banking big on populist measures to woo voters to wrest control of civic bodies from ruling BJP.

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In the upcoming MCD elections, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP is banking big on populist measures to woo voters to wrest control of civic bodies from ruling BJP. One such promise is abolishing the house tax which was announced by CM Kejriwal himself. The zero house tax poll promise is similar to that of reducing the electricity bills and free water, the planks that helped AAP to gain astounding success in 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. Elections to 272 wards of north, east and south municipal corporations will be held on April 23 and the results will come out on April 25. While NDMC and SMDC have 104 seats each, EDMC has 64 seat. But is this zero house tax thing will be feasible? Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said had assured that the party had done a “full study of the finances of the MCDs, and the process of making amendments in the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957, before making the promise”, according to The Indian Express report.

“Residents are happy with the announcement as they realise the racket involved in house tax collection. The reason BJP and Congress politicians are so unhappy is that they are directly or indirectly connected to a web of agents who extort money in the name of getting house tax bills settled,” Sisodia claimed. Sisodia also alleged that at present if a property tax dues is Rs 10,000 of a person then a broker in a racket will take Rs 2,000 and tries to settle the dues.

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One can understand Sisodia’s argument but AAP can not trash numbers. There are an estimated nine lakh property tax payers in the city and about Rs 600 crore in revenue is earned annually by the three civic bodies, according to a report.

Opposition leaders have cast aspersion over the promise, saying that to abolish house tax, the Delhi Municipal Act has to be amended by Parliament. But in a sharp retort, Sisodia said, “for abolishing house tax in Delhi we do not need to go to Parliament. It was before 1993 that amendments were made to the Act by Parliament but after that the amendments in the act and even the last one in 2011 were made without going to the parliament,” he said, adding that rumours are being spread to mislead people.

Meanwhile, Swaraj India, led by Yogendra Yadav, said Saturday that Kejriwal’s promise of abolishing house tax was a “desperate and cynical move by a politician who can see the end of road”.

“If the AAP thinks that the MCDs can be run without taxes, why don’t they announce that the state government will give grant to each MCD equal to house tax revenue foregone. Why make it conditional on AAP winning elections,” a press statement issued by the party said.

(With agency inputs)

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