In 2002, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Dhananjay Pisal got elected as the corporator from Bhandup and remained till 2007, when the ward got reserved for women.
Dhananjay then got his wife, Bharati, to contest and win the elections. But now that the ward has been dereserved, he is all set to reclaim his seat. “I won’t be contesting the election this time as my husband has expressed his interest and would be seeking a ticket from the party,’’ said Bharati. The Pisals aren’t alone. Many former corporators who had pushed their wives ahead in the last civic elections now want their seats back.
Although no political party has declared its candidates yet, insiders said there were a number of requests from ex-corporators to contest again, the maximum being from the NCP.
An NCP leader said on condition of anonymity, “When seats of sitting corporators are reserved for women, the easiest way for them to retain their hold is by installing their wives as dummy corporators, while they continue to run the show. But now that many wards have been dereserved, most men want to reclaim their seats.”
Sujata Waghmare, Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India’s corporator from Deonar, will also take a back seat as her husband Rajendra wants to make a comeback.
“I will be contesting the elections from this ward. If the party allows, we will look for another ward for my wife as well,” said Rajendra.
However, in the case of NCP’s Gulshan Chouhan neither she nor her husband Salim, former corporator from Khara Talao, can contest the civic election. Both have been disqualified by the election commission for violating the 'only two children' rule.
“We are hoping to get a ticket for our son to contest from this ward,” said Salim. Varsha Pawar Tawde from Bhartiya Stree Shakti, an organisation which has been active in building capacities of women wishing to enter the political arena, called this an ‘unhealthy trend’. “The objective of the 50% reservation was to ensure women empowerment and get them into the mainstream. Such practices defeat the purpose of the quota.”
Tawde, however, said things would improve gradually. “Hopefully, in the next 10-15 years, we will see a fresh crop of women political activists who will not bear such snubs to their identity.”