Maharashtra cabinet clears plan for multi-member wards in urban civic bodies, excluding Mumbai
The state cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal reverting to the system of electing multiple councillors or corporators from every ward in all municipal corporations and municipal councils in the state, excluding Mumbai. The state government will promulgate an ordinance to make the amendment. Through the decision, Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is expected to gain in the local body polls to be held later this year and early next year.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is governed by an independent Act — the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, will continue to elect one councillor in every ward in the city, which is scheduled to go to polls in February 2022.
In the new system, voters will elect a three-member panel in each of the wards in municipal corporation areas. In municipal council areas, voters will elect a panel of two members. In a single-member ward system, a voter votes for one candidate, like it is done in Mumbai civic body.
Once formalised by way of an ordinance, the decision will come into effect for municipal corporations of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi-Nizampur, Panvel, Mira-Bhayander, Solapur, Nashik, Malegaon, Parbhani, Nanded-Waghala, Latur, Amravati, Akola, Nagpur and Chandrapur, which go to polls in February-March 2022. Over 50 municipal councils including Baramati, Digras, Kandhar, Indapur, Kannad, Lonavala, Buldhana, Udgir, Paithan, Alibag, Beed, among others, are scheduled to go for polls between January and March 2022.
A month after coming to power, the MVA government, in December 2019, had reverted the decision on the four-member councillor ward which was brought in by the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in May 2016. Then the state had contended that the amendment was necessary to bring accountability to each councillor as well as avoid conflicts among councillors elected from a single ward.
However, the decision on Wednesday was made stating that civic issues can be resolved appropriately with collective representation in the wards. “The chief minister and deputy chief minister have finalised a three-member panel in municipal corporation areas. In municipal councils, there will be two members. This will make the development work in the wards easier and faster. The nagar panchayat, which is smaller in area, will have one member. The decision will be beneficial for citizens,” State urban development department minister Eknath Shinde said after the cabinet meeting.
Politically, the multi-member ward is beneficial to the ruling party. Shinde added, “The government has kept the welfare of the citizens before them while making this amendment... It will be beneficial for MVA in the upcoming local body polls. It will be helpful in accomodating everybody, besides that, the new system will help in getting development work faster.”
Each of the three parties will be able to field candidates in each electoral ward since multiple councillors will have to be elected. This would avoid dispute between the three allies if they contest the coming elections as a coalition.
State minority affairs and skill development minister, Nawab Malik, added that the decision will help field a woman candidate, one candidate from Other Backward Classes (OBC), and a candidate from the open category in the pane. “With this decision, one woman, one OBC and one open category candidate can be [in the panel] so that there will be no injustice to anybody, and nobody will be impacted due to reservation in any particular ward. All sections will get justice through the decision to form a three-member panel,” he said.
According to a cabinet minister, there was division in the number of panel members during the cabinet meeting. The urban development department headed by Sena minister Eknath Shinde had put a proposal to have a four-member panel, similar to what was done in 2016. “Some cabinet ministers said that the four-member panel will be huge and the three-member panel will be useful for the development of the wards,” the minister later said.
The chief minister’s office, in a statement, said, that the decision was made also considering the issues observed while handling the health situation due to the pandemic. “Considering the issues observed while handling the health situation due to Covid-19 and the facts pointed out by the elected representatives, it was felt that to address the civic issues and to fulfil the responsibilities, the collective leadership (multi-member ward system) will be more appropriate. Hence, it was decided to reintroduce the multi-member ward system for the municipal corporations and municipal councils,” said the statement.