June 1, 2021 3:07:22 am
The State Election Commission (SEC) has directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to start preliminary preparation for the civic polls due early next year.
The directions came in the backdrop of the BMC election department’s letter to the commission seeking instructions for pre-poll preparatory works as only nine months were left for the elections.
On Monday, the SEC in a meeting asked the Mumbai civic body to go ahead with preparations. Preparations involve delimitation (redrawing of electoral ward boundaries based on population) and reservation, updation of voters list as per wards and election arrangements following Covid-19 guidelines, EC officials said.
Earlier, questions were raised whether elections would be held on time due to the pandemic situation.
However, officials have cautioned that if there is a third wave of Covid-19 and the situation does not improve, the decision of conducting polls will be reviewed.
“BMC had sought instructions on pre-poll preparations. We told them to start the process. The preparation will also include arrangements of polling booths as per Covid protocol,” Kiran Kurundkar, Secretary, SEC, told The Indian Express.
“Currently, Covid cases are in decline but later, if there is change in situation, a decision will be taken at an appropriate time. We are keeping a close watch on the situation.”
State election officials said that delimitation should take place every five years. Earlier, Congress corporator and BMC opposition leader Ravi Raja had written to the CM to conduct fresh delimitation of electoral wards as boundaries changed in 2017 had favoured the BJP.
The BMC’s term ends on March 7, 2022, so elections are due in February. Also, in 2022, the terms of 17 other corporations including Thane, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur will end. Elections for five municipal corporations including Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar and Kalyan-Dombivali were not held due to Covid-19.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Bhide, who is incharge of BMC’s election department, said they are yet to receive formal instructions from the SEC on civic polls.
The BMC has also been asked to follow the model of recent gram panchayat elections in the state. According to officials, delimitation work may not be much as a fresh census could not take place. BMC will depend on data from the 2011 census and voter lists of 2019 on the basis of which Assembly elections were held.
“The census for 2021 should have been started in 2020 but it did not happen due to Covid-19,” said a BMC official.
According to SEC data, in 2017, when the last BMC poll was held, the city’s population was 1.24 crore. There were 227 electoral wards of which 149 were for open category, 15 SC, two for ST and 61 for OBC.
Redrawing of electoral wards is being done for equal population distribution in each ward. Further lottery for seat reservations is being held, as it changes every five years.
Officials said that reservation of wards will be impacted due to the recent Supreme Court order on OBC reservations. “We are seeking the state government’s instructions on OBC reservations,” said an official from SEC.
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