City corporators had lined up their customary pre-poll appeasement of voters over the next few days (read sanctioning multi-crore projects), but the state Election Commission (EC) managed to outsmart them. Announcing that elections to 10 municipal corporations across Maharashtra would be held on February 1, state Election Commissioner Nand Lal imposed the code of conduct with immediate effect, negating any chance of voter ‘bribery’.
As a result, infrastructure projects in Mumbai, worth Rs 1,700 crore, have been put on hold, Additional Municipal Commissioner Manu Kumar Srivastav indicated. The stalled works include repair of water pipelines, road repairs, hospital upgradations and repair of sewerage systems.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) also cannot begin work on projects valued at Rs 800 crore that were cleared earlier. However, tenders for these projects have been issued and the BMC plans to ask the EC for clearance.
The ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine in the BMC was among those whose newfound zeal to sanction projects came to naught. A special meeting of the Standing Committee had been called on Wednesday to clear 32 proposals worth Rs 150 crore, but it had to be cancelled because of the code.
Nand Lal warned politicians against trying to breach the code. “Municipal commissioners and police officials have been informed. I will take action if they report any breach till the results are declared on February 2,” he said. Only “emergency proposals” would be cleared by him after due assessment, Nand Lal said.
The code of conduct also strips civic office-bearers of their status symbols — red beacons on official cars. In all, 26 BMC office-bearers, including committee chairpersons, were asked to surrender their official cars and mobiles.
Only Mayor Datta Dalvi can keep his car.
The politicking began immediately after the poll date was announced. The ruling combine blamed the administration for not sanctioning in advance the works now held up. BJP corporator Arun Deo said: “We were assured by the administration that specific dates would be allocated for the proposals. However, this did not happen.”
The opposition, meanwhile, said work on only 12 per cent of the budget outlay had begun. Nationalist Congress Party leader Ravindra Pawar said: “It’s not just the administration. Even the ruling Sena-BJP has failed.”
But Srivastav blamed the cash flow, pointing out that expenditure proposals could be cleared only in relation to the BMC’s income.
Apart from politically significant Mumbai and Thane, where the Sena has been in power for over a decade, elections will be held in the political hotbeds of Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.
(With inputs by Naresh Kamat, Dhaval Kulkarni and Ketaki Ghoge)