[Urbanstudy] India needs strong, directly elected mayors

Vinay Baindur yanivbin at gmail.com
Fri Jul 14 05:39:52 CDT 2017


http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/oTVlQ2WNVeISPprBH0NX7I/India-needs-strong-directly-elected-mayors.html

India needs strong, directly elected mayors

There are not enough champions of better urban governance in major
political parties
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[image: The centralization of governance in postcolonial India is at odds
with the history of local self-governments coexisting with ancient
kingdoms. Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint]The centralization of governance
in postcolonial India is at odds with the history of local self-governments
coexisting with ancient kingdoms. Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint


Since power lies largely with state and central governments, the new
dynasts that proliferate in Indian politics also prefer the parliamentary
and legislative bastions controlled for generations rather than proving
their mettle by transforming a city. This is at odds with several other
countries where successful mayors go on to head national governments. For
instance, the current presidents of Indonesia and Turkey—Joko Widodo and
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—had previously served as mayors of Solo and Istanbul,
respectively. Both Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji were mayors of Shanghai
before reaching the highest echelons of Chinese national politics.

The centralization of governance in postcolonial India is also at variance
with the long history of local self-governments coexisting with ancient
kingdoms. Even if one doesn’t go that far back, leading freedom fighters
too started out their political journeys in city corporations. While
Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel honed their administrative skills as
mayors of Allahabad and Ahmedabad, Subhas Chandra Bose served as the chief
executive officer of the Calcutta Corporation before stepping into the role
of Calcutta’s mayor.

The excessive fear of fragmentation in a newly independent India led to a
reluctant federation and a dirigiste economy. While the pace of economic
liberalization remains slow, the decentralization of administration has
been slower. It is high time for corrective steps.

*Should Indian states delegate more resources and powers to mayors? Tell us
at views at livemint.com <views at livemint.com>*
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