Mumbai and nine other municipal corporations including neighbouring Thane would go to polls on February 1 next year. The election's code of conduct started on Wednesday morning putting a freeze on new developmental works and policy decisions that would influence the voters in the notified areas.
Announcing the programme, State Election Commissioner Nand Lal said the administration would keep a strict vigil on politicians who try breach the code. "The municipal commissioners and top police officials have been informed accordingly. I will take proper action if they report any kind of breach till the results are declared on February 2," he told a media conference on Wednesday.
Other than crucial Mumbai and Thane where the Shiv Sena has been in power for over a decade, the elections would be held in equally important political hotbeds Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur. By-polls in New Mumbai's ward no. 58 and Aurangabad's ward number 46 would be held on the same date.
The elections would prove a major test for ruling Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. Both are buoyed after staging fabulous performances in the recent municipal council elections. Naturally, they would now love to govern urban areas as they have maximum number of voters and would frame political trends in future.
No wonder then, the opposition-controlled Mumbai, Thane, Nasik and Akola are prime targets for the Congress and NCP as they want to dislodge the long-ruling Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine from the respective local governments.
NCP aide and RPI MLA Suresh alias Pappu Kalani-led group governs Ulhasnagar. NCP holds sway in Pimpri-Chinchwad while the Congress has its mayors in Pune, Nagpur, Amravati and Solapur.
Nand Lal said these would be the first municipal elections to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the country. "In all, 18,000 EVMs will be pressed in service at 1162 wards." As per latest assessment, 1,56,82,000 voters constitute the electoral college for 10 corporations. Of these Mumbai alone has 83,80,000 voters.
When asked if proposals passed by any corporation would violate the code of conduct, Nand Lal replied in affirmative. "Only those proposals passed in view of any kind emergency (like foods) would get my clearance. I will assess the importance and requirement in case to case basis before arriving at any decision," he said.
Taking a clue from Nand Lal's clear directives that reached them Wednesday morning, the Standing Committee of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation requested the municipal commissioner to forward some proposals for Nand Lal's approval.
Nand Lal said he didn't announce the Zilla Parishad polls as he expected the government to declare some policy decision for the rural masses – especially debt-ridden farmers during the ongoing Winter Session of the State Legislature. "The commission doesn't want to come in way of the needy."