The party that professes commitment to Mumbai’s development and is looking at a strong comeback in the 2017 election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) continues to fare poorly when it comes to making its presence felt in the civic body.
As per information from MumbaiVotes, a non-profit volunteer-driven initiative to track performance of elected representatives, between March 2012 and March 2015, corporators from MNS are among those with the worst attendance in the BMc committee and house meetings.
An analysis of raw data collected by MumbaiVotes shows that nearly 65 per cent of the party’s 28 corporators were present for only up to 75 per cent of BMC’s total meetings in the three years. The average attendance was much lower than that of other major parties in BMC.
According to the data, the 28 MNS corporators had an average attendance of 70.5 per cent, lower than the average attendance of ruling Shiv Sena and BJP, which MNS chief Raj Thackeray has vociferously lashed out against in recent speeches, and also that of the Congress and NCP.
Shiv Sena and BJP had an average attendance of 83.8 per cent and 80.5 per cent in the three-year period, while Congress and NCP corporators registered an average attendance of 74.5 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively.
Among the main parties, the only party with attendance worse than the MNS was the Samajwadi Party whose corporators recorded an average attendance of 64.66 percent, with six of its nine councillors having been present for less than 75 per cent of BMC meetings, as per the information.
MumbaiVotes obtained the information using the Right to Information law and by culling data collected by Praja, another non-profit organization. “The number of days that elected representatives have to attend general body meetings is a small fraction of the year. Even then, if they can’t have hundred percent attendance, we don’t see any reason other than lacklusture approach. Even if you are a passive member, there is a sacred value to attending house meetings,” said Vivek Gilani, founder, MumbaiVotes.
Corporators said they tend to skip meetings because they feel they are not able to get much work done through them.
Suresh Awale, MNS corporator from Ghatkopar’s Ramabai Nagar, said, “At times certain topics are discussed in the general body meetings that do not really result in anything. We just end up wasting 4-5 hours at a stretch. For example, when the budget is discussed, we end up wasting time because it is almost always never changed. I am gladly willing to sit in the House if they hear our suggestions and make changes in the budget accordingly.” Awale, who recorded a 56 per cent attendance during the three-year period, said he always makes it a point to attend meetings when issues significant for him and his ward are to be discussed.
The Congress’s Dnyanraj Nikam had the worst attendance, 35 per cent of meetings in three years.
“I have 95 percent attendance at the ward office. I sit there daily between 11.30 am and 1 pm, and in the evenings, I am available in my ward. As such, I am available to my people round the clock. I go to corporation meetings when there is some work, but largely I concentrate on my area,” said Nikam, a three-time corporator and also former leader of the Opposition in the BMC.
Mangala Kadam, MNS corporator from Ghatkopar’s Kamraj Nagar, had the second-lowest attendance from among the 227 corporators, having been present for only 38 per cent of the meetings held between 2012 and 2015.
Kadam asked her husband, former corporator Parameshwar Kadam, to speak when asked for a comment. Parameshwar Kadam, who was corporator from the same ward between 2007 and 2012, said, “One can’t really get work done through attendance. If we put up proposals before committees, it takes months and at times even years for our proposal to come up for discussion, and responses are not satisfactory most of the times. It is much easier to be on the field and directly take up issues with the ward officer and deputy municipal commissioners,” Kadam said.
He added that even if corporators attend general body meetings, they rarely get a chance to speak as it is mostly seniors who participate in discussions.
Similarly, Avinash Sawant, MNS corporator from Powai, said a corporator’s performance should not be judged from his or her attendance.
Sawant, whose attendance was the third worst at 39 per cent, said, “This does not mean I don’t work in my ward. I have taken up and completed 215 different works related to my area and its people’s development in four years.”
In the last term too, for the first four years between 2007 and 2011, the MNS, which had seven corporators in the BMC then, had the lowest attendance records among major parties.
Sandeep Deshpande, MNS corporator from Dadar and the party’s group leader in the BMC, said, “We have tried educating our corporators about the importance of attending house meetings. The house meets only once a week, so corporators should definitely attend.
Ward-level work is important, but knowledge of BMC’s overall working and policy issues across Mumbai is equally important.”
Deshpande had a 70 percent attendance record between 2012 and 2015, as per data.