Congress’ Nitin Salagre and Shiv Sena’s Sandeep Naik and Eknath Hundare, runners-up of the 2017 BMC elections, were almost sure of becoming corporators after the Supreme Court recently approved the disqualification of three sitting corporators after they failed to prove their caste.
Under Section 33(2) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, if any corporator is disqualified then the candidate with the second highest votes can be appointed as a corporator in his place without fresh elections. Only some formalities remained before the three were officially declared as corporators.
The State Election Commission (SEC) has, however, announced fresh polls on the three seats, dashing their hopes. On May 9, the SEC announced fresh elections in 20 corporator seats across the state which have fallen vacant. The seats are in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Ulhasnagar, Kolhapur and Pune, and include the three seats where Salagre, Naik and Hundare were set to be corporators.
Last month, the SC dismissed the petitions of Murji Patel and his wife Kesharben Patel, both BJP corporators from Jogeshwari (East), and Congress corporator Rajpat Yadav from Kandivali (East) challenging a Bombay High Court order upholding the Caste Scrutiny Committee (CSC)’s order disqualifying them as corporators. All three claimed they belonged to Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Following the SC order, Murji Patel was set to be replaced by Salagre, Kehsarben Patel by Naik and Yadav by Hundare. The runners-up candidates had also submitted documents to the Small Causes Court to stake their claim as corporators.
The three hopefuls are now disappointed with the SEC decision. “I am shocked by the SEC’s decision to hold re-elections on these seats. Section 33(2) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, clearly says that in case a sitting corporator is disqualified, then the next candidate with the highest number of votes should be elected as a corporator. All three of us had moved applications in the Small Causes Court within a week of the election results being declared questioning the elected corporators’ caste certificates,” Salagre told The Indian Express.
“This is unfair as we have been fighting for long to expose the use of bogus caste certificates by candidates to contest elections. We are eligible to be declared as corporators,” he added.
Anticipating the SEC decision, Salagre had written to the commission, informing them about Section 34(9) of the MMC Act that states that no by-elections should be declared till the time there is any pending cases. Salagre, Naik and Hundare plan to challenge the SEC decision in the High Court.