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BMC elections to be delayed, all eyes on revised ward boundaries as SEC gears up for civic elections

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The number of electoral wards in the city will increase from 227 to 236. The SEC has directed BMC to publish the revised boundaries of wards on February 1 and invite suggestions/objections up to February 14.

A hearing on suggestions/objections received will be held on February 26, and a report will be submitted to the SEC by March 2. The same timetable will apply to other corporations including Thane, which is also going to the polls. The state cabinet had approved the proposal to increase electoral wards in the BMC and to have multiple panel wards for other corporations.

The state legislature gave its approval for amending various Acts for it. Setting the ball rolling for elections to the BMC and14 other municipal corporations in the state, the State Election Commission (SEC) on Saturday chalked out the timeline for finalizing boundaries of wards after they were increased in Mumbai and determining multiple panel wards in the other civic bodies.

With the timeline stating the final list of ward limits will be published on March 2, the polls to India’s richest civic corporation, the BMC, are set to be delayed and could possibly be pushed to late March or April. Once the new BMC electoral ward limits are decided, the lottery forward reservation too will have to take place before civic elections are held.

In a letter to the BMC and other local bodies, SEC has said finalizing reservations for OBCs will take some time. The state government had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, which directed the state to submit details to the OBC commission. The panel will study data and in turn make recommendations to the state and also to the SEC. 

“Since taking a decision based on recommendations of the OBC commission will take some time, the SEC in the meantime has decided to finalize ward boundaries. It will be the responsibility of the civic body to complete the exercise within the given timeline and the details are to be posted on the corporation’s website and submit a report to the SEC on completion of each step,” the SEC letter read.

The total population of the city, as finalised for the 236 wards, is 12.44 million. The SEC has accepted the ward-wise SC and ST population details provided by the BMC. Of the 236 wards, 50% are reserved for women. Of the 236 wards, 15 wards have been reserved for SCs and two for STs. In March 2021, SC had said reservations for OBCs in the state’s local bodies cannot exceed the total ceiling of 50% for SCs, STs and OBCs.

After the order, the state-appointed a commission to collect empirical data and promulgated an ordinance to give up to 27% reservation to OBCs without exceeding the 50% ceiling. But SC stayed it, saying it cannot be implemented without data. BJP MLA from Mulund Mihir Kotecha said the party will await details of ward boundaries. 

“It is well known that a political agency affiliated with the ruling party (Shiv Sena) and not BMC has drawn up the ward boundaries. The pen drive submitted to BMC by the agency has been forwarded to the SEC,” he said. BJP had won 82 seats in the last civic elections and in over 25 seats, it won by a margin of fewer than 1,000 votes. “There is every likelihood booths have been adjusted such that BJP loses its winning edge. Boundaries are decided by arterial roads and major nullahs,” said BJP sources.

In Thane, SEC has okayed 47 multiple panel wards. The ward numbers will go up from 33 to 47. While 46 wards will have 3 members, ward No. 44 will have 4. The total representatives will go to 142 from 131.

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