The Mayoral selection for the BBMP is a lot of sound and fury about a position that is essentially a titular one-year wonder with no effective powers. If you are wondering what the powers of the mayor are - the person is the presiding officer of the Council who requests the Commissioner to execute the decisions of the Council and the Standing Committee. And the ceremonial first citizen of the city with the 'Worshipful' honorific, a relic of colonial times.
We need a 5-year term for the mayor. This is a necessary reform. It's been the recommendations of the Kasturirangan Committee and the BBMP Restructuring Committee. Ideally, the Mayor should be the executive head of the Municipality and the municipal administration shall be under his/her control. This is also the suggestion of the Private member bill in Parliament by Shashi Tharoor, MP. Currently, under the British inspired 'Commisionerate' system, the CEO of BBMP is the State Government appointed Commissioner while the Council is presided over by an indirectly elected Mayor who is the ceremonial head of the Corporation. It hence creates a system where executive power is exercised without local democratic accountability.
When one suggests a longer tenure and more power for the Mayor, many get worried based on the perceived quality of the Corporators. Historically, the path to individual politics was through local, then State and subsequently National politics. Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad all served terms as Mayors of their cities. If there is appropriate empowerment of the third tier of city government, it will throw up quality leaders.
The Mayoral arrangement is just one part of a complex puzzle that needs to be fixed for a better quality of life in our city. The capabilities and skill sets in our local government is limited. The science of city management needs specialists, particularly when it relates to aspects of environment, engineering, town planning, solid waste management, health, education, finance, etc. But we are making do with resources who in many cases are not qualified to hold the positions they do. Even when we do have qualified resources they tend to be generalists when the need of the hour is specialised knowledge.
The key focus needs to be on setting up a professional cadre of human resources with specialists manning tasks that need deep domain knowledge.
Training of existing resources is necessary but will take time and considerable effort. Lateral recruitments at senior levels in the Corporation with professional qualifications and experience is imperative if Bengaluru is to be transformed. Finally, the way out of our current mess is collaboration between people in government and those outside. Setting up advisory bodies to bring in external expertise could help in addressing our collective woes in a collaborative manner.