Updated: September 23, 2021 9:47:11 am
To firm up its hold on urban local bodies across Maharashtra, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Wednesday decided to reintroduce multi-member ward system for all municipal councils and corporations barring Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), instead of the existing single-member ward system.
An ordinance to this effect will be promulgated, which will be sent to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for his approval.
The decision, which was approved during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, is a reversal of the MVA’s December 2019 decision of having a single-member ward system in municipal corporations and councils.
Then Devendra Fadnavis-led government had introduced a multi-member ward system in all corporations, barring the BMC, in 2016, which was reversed by the MVA government in 2019.
Under the system that had been brought in by the BJP, several wards or electoral constituencies were amalgamated to elect four councillors from each ward.
As per the new rule passed by the MVA government, each ward in a corporation will now elect three corporators, while in municipal councils, two corporators will get elected from each ward.
The new system means each voter will have to vote for three corporators if it is a municipal corporation or two corporators if it is a council.
Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, speaking to mediapersons after the Cabinet meeting, said: “There will be three-member panels in municipal corporations and two-member panels in councils. This will make development work in the wards easier and faster. The Nagar Panchayat, which is smaller in area, will have one member. The decision will benefit people.”
Sources in the government said that the decision is likely to benefit MVA allies Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress in the upcoming municipal council and corporations polls. In all, over 190 municipal councils and more than 10 corporations will go to polls later this year and early next year.
The Cabinet was divided on the number of members in the multi-member ward system, as the urban development department — headed by Shiv Sena — had proposed the four-member panel for corporations but NCP was not in favour.
“Some Cabinet ministers said that a four-member panel will be huge and a three-member panel will be useful. Finally, the chief minister and deputy chief minister finalised a three-member panel for municipal corporations,” said Shinde.
Sources said the decision would help the MVA politically in the polls. “The smaller size of the panel makes voters focus on candidates rather than the party. But in cases of big ward panels, voters tend to vote for a party, as there are more lesser known candidates in fray,” said a Cabinet minister, adding that it would also help the three allies to jointly field candidates wherever possible.
Further, the decision will help MVA in overcoming caste or gender-based reservation in local bodies. “This decision will help field one woman as well as OBC and open category candidates in the panel and there would be no injustice to anybody. Nobody will be impacted due to reservation in any particular ward. All sections will get justice in forming a three-member panel,” said Malik.
A statement issued by the Chief Minister Secretariat, however, said that the multi-member ward system was approved following the issues observed during the Covid-19 pandemic and facts pointed out by elected representatives. “…it was felt that to address civic issues and fulfill responsibilities, collective leadership (multi-member ward system) will be more appropriate. Hence, it was decided to reintroduce the multi-member ward system for municipal corporations and councils,” said the statement.
Sources from the State Election Commission (SEC) said that the multi-member ward system will come into effect the day the government amends law either through an ordinance or a bill but it will not lead to deferring the polls so that MVA can ensure OBC reservation.
“We have already started the process of drafting ward boundaries of municipal corporations. We can make changes, as it is not a huge exercise. So, it will not lead to deferring of local bodies polls,” a senior SEC official said.
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