The redrawing of ward boundaries in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has caused consternation among many sitting corporators who have questioned the modus used to realign the wards and are claiming that the exercise is being carried out with the ulterior motive of favouring the ruling Shiv Sena. Corporators have also claimed that this is the first time that ward boundaries are being divided by railway lines.
The BMC on Monday issued a draft notification of increase in the number of electoral wards from existing 227 to 236, asking for suggestions and objections over the addition of nine new electoral wards.
Harish Bhandirge, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator from Kurla, said that ward number 170 has been newly created and will cover areas like Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Vidyavihar Colony and Premier Colony.
Bhandirge said 15 polling booths from his existing ward number 164 have been moved to ward number 170. There are around 1,200 voters under one polling booth.
“They have carved the majority of areas from my existing wards and taken some areas from the adjacent ward which has a Sena corporator and created a new ward. The rules say the electoral ward should not be divided by railway line but here, ward number 170 is divided by LTT Railway Station. We will file an objection against these changes,” said Bhandirge.
Apart from Bhandirge, areas from Sena corporators Dilip Lande and Praveena Morajkar’s wards, Congress corporator Ashraf Azami’s ward, lone MNS corporator Sanjay Turde’s ward in Kurla and BJP corporator Bindu Trivedi’s ward in Vidyavihar have also been added in the newly created ward number 170.
In 2017, the Shiv Sena and the BJP, who were ruling the state in an alliance, broke their tie-up and contested civic elections individually. While Sena won 84 seats, the BJP was the second largest party with 82 corporators. Last year, the Congress and Sena alleged that the BJP-led state government had changed ward boundaries to benefit in corporation elections.
Another BJP corporator Mahadeo Shivgan from Chembur has similar complaints about changes in ward boundaries. Shivgan said that the major portion of his existing ward has been moved in newly formed ward number 159, which covers areas like Sindhi Society, Maravali, Collector Colony and Shahaji Nagar.
“I am unable to understand on what basis ward boundaries were changed. We are studying the maps and further action will be taken (based on that),” said Shivgan.
At present, Shivgan is a corporator from ward number 154 which covers areas like Chembur Colony, Union Park and Ashok Nagar. His ward has now been clubbed with a large part of Sena corporator Anil Patankar’s constituency.
In the island city, a new ward has been formed by carving areas from mayor Kishori Pednekar and former mayor Snehal Ambekar’s electoral wards. While Pednekar is a corporator from Worli, Gandhi Nagar area, Ambekar’s constituency covers Delisle Road, Currey Road area.
Corporators in BMC said that boundaries of most of the wards are changed in such a way that it will benefit Sena. Interestingly, the increase in the number of wards has been done in Sena bastion where traditional Maharashtrian voters are dominant. “Areas like Worli, Mahalaxmi, Parel, Seweree, Chinchpokali, Dahisar are strongholds of Sena. Adding new wards in these areas will benefit Sena as they have a strong voter base,” said a corporator from Sena.
Mayor and Sena spokesperson Pedenekar has denied the allegations of making changes in ward boundaries to benefit her party. “Draft ward boundary maps are in public domain and suggestions and objections have been sought. In 2017, ward boundaries were changed. Why were no questions asked then? Those who are asking questions now had done the same thing in 2017,” said Pednekar.