Banking on the goodwill generated by the schemes of free water and slashing electricity charges, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday made a major promise - - to abolish residential house tax - - if his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wins the toughly contested civic polls in the national capital.
"We will abolish residential house tax and waive off all arrears of such taxes of all citizens of Delhi if AAP comes to power in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, " Kejriwal told reporters.
He added that industrial and commercial house tax will remain as earlier.
The move was criticised by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
Elections to the 272 wards in three municipal corporations are scheduled for April 23.
The results will be out on April 26.
Kejriwal said his party has delivered on most of the promises, including reducing the electricity charges.
"We had promised to provide free drinking water and to halve the electricity rates.
We did what we said.
Here in municipal elections we will do what we are promising, " the AAP leader assured.
The city, which as per Census 2011 has a population of 1. 68 crore, has around 8 - 9 lakh property tax payers (including commercial ones) in north, south and east municipal corporations.
As per north and east MCD officials, property tax (residential and commercial) worth Rs 560 crore and Rs 150 crore has been deposited so far in both the corporations respectively.
"Property tax, which includes house tax, is our main source of income.
The move, if implemented, will incur over Rs 500 crore loss to the MCD coffers, " a municipal official told IANS pleading anonymity.
The AAP is gearing up for intensive campaigning for the civic polls from March 31.
Kejriwal has planned several public meetings across the city for the municipal polls.
According to Kejriwal, the AAP has made all calculations related to the residential house tax.
He said if his party wins the civic bodies, which are being ruled by the BJP, it would "save peoples' money from corruption" and the party would use that to cover the shortfall after abolishing the house tax.
Kejriwal said if AAP wins then within one year the party will turn around the MCDs into profitable organisations from ones that at present are facing fund crunch.
"The salaries of MCD employees would be released on time if AAP comes to power in civic bodies, " he announced.
The capital has witnessed strikes by MCD sanitation workers who refused to remove garbage, and even spread it on the roads, to protest non - payment of salary.
Kejriwal alleged corruption in the corporations and accused councillors of earning money through such practices.
He said the money paid to corporations through taxes was being "stolen by corrupt people".
"To mint money the corporators in MCD on show on paper one road constructed three to four times.
They misuse the money meant for the roads.
Several works which are not needed are being done in MCD due to which corruption is increasing, " Kejriwal said.
He said that AAP would soon come up with a detailed manifesto for the civic bodies elections.
Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari termed the announcement of abolishing residential house tax shameful.
"It is shameful that he is saying that once his party wins civic elections it will exempt residential properties from house tax.
In the last two years, the Kejriwal government has several times written to the three civic bodies to levy and realise house tax sternly, especially from those living in unauthorised colonies, " Tiwari said in a statement.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said the AAP has not yet fulfilled its promises of "free WiFi, and marshals in DTC buses".
"After ruining the city through the incompetent AAP government, Arvind Kejriwal will inflict more damage on Delhi people if the AAP comes to power in the MCDs, " Maken said.