Even as corporators were presenting their suggestions and recommendations for the civic budget in the general body meeting on Monday, the exercise seemed futile as the municipal commissioner had declared the civic budget presented by him on March 20 to be implemented.
Under normal circumstances, the budget has to be approved by the standing committee before it is adopted. However, an amendment made by the state government in the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC)Act, 1888, in August last year gave the civic chief the power to deem the statement of income and expenditure prepared by him as the budget if the committee fails to approve it before April 1.
The amendment also states that the budget presented by the civic chief would only be applicable till the standing committee approved the budget with its modifications.
However, the amendment is likely to become a political issue between the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the state government ruled by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party with the former alleging that the move was aimed at curbing the powers enjoyed by the elected representatives.
Moreover, it is likely to spark off a state government versus BMC debate with the corporators worrying over more powers being given to the state-appointed municipal commissioner.
Yashodhar Phanse, Shiv Sena group leader in the civic body, said: “Powers of the civic corporators are being severely curtailed by introducing such amendments. Our right of proposing changes to the budget has been merely reduced to making suggestions and holding discussions.”
Several corporators also questioned the urgency of the civic chief in taking such a decision. “If there was a need to implement the budget estimates, why did the municipal commissioner not bring the issue for discussion in the meetings of group leaders?” said Dilip Patel, BJP group leader.
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta allayed fears of the administrative apparatus superseding elected corporators. “It was important for the budget to be implemented to ensure there is no expenditure that is made outside the proposed estimates,” he said, adding that once the committee made its amendments, the budget would be upheld for implementation.