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councillor

What can a Councillor do?

by Girisha Shankar
Edited by Apoorva Tadepalli

The Civic Leadership Incubation Program prepares students to undertake civic governance at the local level in their wards. While the BBMP is organised as a gargantuan hierarchy with several roles at play, the elected representatives do have an important role. There is a lot that a councillor can aspire for and also achieve during his tenure at BBMP.

The most basic function of a councillor is to form and chair the ward committee. The ward committee needs to be selected carefully in order to fulfil political compulsions while at the same time allowing for adequate representation for all the citizens of the ward. The other important function of a councillor is to hold ward committee meetings, which also can be useful in coordinating civic agencies like BWSSB, BESCOM, BBMP, etc. Without such coordination, civic issues are not addressed efficiently – the simplest example of that being when roads are cut by one government body soon after another asphalts the road.  Another aspect of these meetings is that they help ensure the public’s participation, and the councillors can get to hear directly from the aggrieved parties instead of waiting for the problems to precipitate into a crisis, like with the garbage crisis of Bangalore in 2012. Most of the problems in ward can have a local solution, if proper coordination can be ensured. The councillor can be instrumental in making this happen.

It is essential that the councillor exercise their right to raise questions in the council meeting pertaining to the general proceedings and also bring up specific issues from the ward, which need attention. A councillor who stays as a mute spectator of the council proceedings without any proactive participation is a liability and it is a failure on his/her part in performing his/her duties.

Another role that a councillor can aspire to take on is to join various standing committees (though, not simultaneously). Unlike the previous roles where they are representing their ward alone, here the focus is wider – encompassing all of the city. Irrespective of whether the councillor happens to be a member of the committee or its chairman, the councillor has to manage dual role of representing their ward as well as taking a larger perspective of BBMP as a whole in dealing with specific business of the committee – be it large infrastructure works, health in the city, public schools and so on.

After a reasonably long stint in the council and having gained adequate experience with the functioning of the BBMP, a councillor can aspire to be a Deputy Mayor or Mayor, the latter of which has to ensure the execution of the council’s resolutions. Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have access to funds that can be used at their discretion. Here in lies the ability of councillors in ensuring that the funds are used appropriately – not just in their ward, but also for the city corporation’s entire jurisdiction.

All said, these are but the starting points for the role an ambitious councillor or corporator can play in a city like Bangalore. The true scope of a civic leader’s role, whether they hold elected office or not, is only constrained by their political imagination and drive.

Girisha Shankar is an urban policy analyst with the Takshashila Institution and a student of the B.CLIP pioneer batch. Apoorva Tadepalli is an intern at the Takshashila Institution. This was a part of Girisha’s lecture on a ‘Bottom-up Introduction to the BBMP’.