After the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, objections had been raised against the caste claims of five corporators. Their caste claims were turned down by the vigilance cell of the Mumbai Caste Scrutiny Committee (CSC) in August 2017. The five had subsequently moved the Bombay High Court where two corporators got a reprieve.
The remaining three had then decided to move the apex court last month but failed to get a reprieve. 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 corporator in his place without elections.
Four candidates, who bagged the second-highest number of votes in the 2017 civic polls in Mumbai were hopeful of becoming corporators after the incumbents (mentioned above) were disqualified owing to invalid caste certificates. 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.
Here is why the three runners-up of 2017 BMC polls plan to move Bombay High Court against the SEC order to conduct fresh polls:
Why four corporator seats in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are vacant
Last month, three corporators—two from BJP and one from Congress—were disqualified by the Bombay High Court over submission of invalid caste certificates. Later, the high court’s decision was upheld by the Supreme Court and corporator Murji Patel (Jogeshwari East) and his wife Kesharben Patel (Jogeshwari East) both from BJP, and Congress corporator Rajpati Yadav (Kandivali East) had been disqualified. Earlier, in December 2018 Congress corporator Steffi Kini from Manori, Malad West was disqualified by Bombay High Court over an invalid caste certificate. All of them had claimed that they were from Other Backward Class (OBC) and won the BMC election that was held in 2017. Earlier, Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee had found in their probe that caste certificate of all four were invalid.
What is the claim of candidates who scored the second-highest votes from these fours seats
Following the disqualification of all the four corporators, the candidates with the second highest votes had moved applications in the Small Causes Court urging that they be declared corporators. Congress candidate Nitin Salagre was second highest against Kesharben Patel, Sandeep Naik from Shiv Sena lost the election against Murji Patel, Shiv Sena candidate Eknath Hundare had contested against Rajpati Yadav and Sena candidate Geeta Bhandari lost to Steffi Kini.
These four second highest candidates have claimed that they should be declared corporators after the disqualification of sitting corporators. They cited section 33 (2) of Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, 1888 and contended that being the second highest allows them to be declared as corporator after the disqualification of sitting corporators. Referring to another section 34 of MMC Act, the candidates said that till decision on their pending petitions before Small Causes Court is not declared, no by-elections should be conducted.
Why notification from State Election Commission (SEC) has started preparation of bye-elections
On May 9, State Election Commission (SEC) had issued a notification to start the process for bye-elections in 20 vacant corporator seats across Maharashtra including four in BMC. The notification has asked to start process of preparing fresh voting list and update the voters list in respective wards for bye-elections. However, no dates have been declared. SEC officials said that the BMC administration has informed them about four vacant seats in municipal corporation since there is no specific order on declaring second highest as corporators. Since there is no decision or order from Small Causes Court on the appointment of the four candidates with second-highest votes as corporators on these four seats, the SEC has started the process of bye-elections. Officials have clarified that notification is only about primary preparation on by-elections and final decisions would be taken considering the outcome of pending court cases.
Which political party benefit the most if the candidates with the second-highest vote are declared corporators
If candidates with second-highest votes are declared winners, then Shiv Sena will benefit the most as out of four, three candidates are from Sena and one from Congress. Currently, of the 227 elected corporators in the BMC, the Shiv Sena has the highest with 93 corporators, BJP is second with 83 corporators and Congress has 30 corporators.