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Poll focus shifts to suburbs

More than two thirds of the corporators, 164 out of 227, will come from the suburbs, reports Ketaki Ghoge.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 04:43 IST

Once upon a time, the city could be neatly divided into the tony South Mumbai (extends upto the Central Mumbai) and its poor cousin, the suburban Mumbai. Well, not any more.

This civic elections, suburban Mumbai will calls the shots.Here’s why.

More than two thirds of the corporators — 164 out of 227 — will come from the suburbs. An equal number of legislators (26 out of 36 MLAs), who will represent the city in the assembly, will come from the fringes of the main city.

This is the first civic elections after restructuring of wards.

The story of the metro is rapidly changing with shift in demographics and rapid development in the suburbs.

Together, the eastern and western suburbs of Mumbai represent a huge chunk of citizenry at nearly 59.9 lakhs; the city’s population is at 23.7 lakhs.

Politically, it’s never made better sense than now to woo the suburbanites.

“All parties are focusing on the suburbs because of the population demographics. These areas will have more electoral power and will decide future city leadership,” said Sanjay Patil, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) young MLA from Bhandup, one of the largest eastern suburbs.

This also means that in the future more funds will be pumped into the suburbs for straightening infrastructure.

However, it may not be easy to win over suburban Mumbai. For many, memories of July 2005 floods have magnified the many civic lacunae here — from poor water supply to lack of sewerage system.

“We did not have electricity for three days after 26/7. Most of us were confined to our houses — our roads, sewerage and sanitation systems failed. In South Mumbai, life was as tediously normal,” said Rekha Kotwal, a central government employee and resident of Vile Parle.

“It is a fact that suburbs have not got the due they deserve,’’ said Samir Desai, Congress corporator from Goregaon, P (South) administrative ward. “They don’t constitute even 10 per cent of the Development Plan of the BMC. The civic administration has failed to keep up with rapid pace of development and influx of people here.”

Desai, nephew of Mumbai Congress chief Gurudas Kamat, is optimistic that suburban dynamics will soon dictate political will to plan civic infrastructure in the suburbs.

V. Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner, pointed out that one of the ways to ensure this was to reorganise civic administration in the suburbs.

“We need to reorganise wards based on populace. For instance, K (E) has a population of nearly 8 lakhs that is equal to the size of may be two or three city wards,” said Ranganathan.

Email Ketaki Ghoge: ketaki .ghoge@hindustantimes.com