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After spending a year and Rs 50 lakh, PCMC was ready for civic polls; but it may now have to start afresh

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For one full year, over 800 election department employees of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) toiled round the clock to prepare for this year’s PCMC elections. Besides, the civic body had to shell out nearly Rs 50 lakh to put things in place. However, it now appears that their efforts were in vain as they will have to repeat the entire exercise following the Shinde-Fadnavis government’s decision to revert to the four-member ward system as in 2017. This also means that the PCMC is staring at a fresh expenditure of Rs 50 lakh.

On Wednesday, the state Cabinet decided to go with the four-member ward system for civic elections across the state, setting aside the decision on the three-member system taken by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray last year.

Civic officials said so far they have not received any intimation from the State Election Commission (SEC) in this regard. “We are awaiting further instructions from the State Election Commission,” assistant municipal commissioner Balasaheb Khandekar, who heads the PCMC’s election department, told The Indian Express on Friday.

Under the three-member ward system, PCMC was supposed to have 139 corporators. “If the four-member ward system is implemented, PCMC will have 128 corporators. In 2017, there were 32 wards or ‘prabhags’. Each of them elected four corporators. For the 2022 elections, we had demarcated 46 wards,” said Khandekar.

PCMC election officials said once the SEC conveys its decision, they will have to get down to the whole exercise of demarcation of wards, preparing voters’ list and conducting a draw of lots for reserving wards for various categories. “As I said, we are awaiting the SEC’s directives. As soon as we get it, we will get down to the task,” said Khandekar.

PCMC officials said over 800 civic election department employees worked to update the voters’ list as per the 2011 Census, drawing new boundaries of wards, taking up objections and suggestions, drawing lots for reservation. “This exercise started last year and it took us almost one year to complete it. We did not even take our weekly offs. We worked on Saturdays and Sundays as well and on public holidays… We are today in a position to hold the elections any time,” said Khandekar.

Election officials said the PCMC has made a provision of Rs 10 crore for conducting the 2022 civic elections. “For the three-member ward system we spent nearly Rs 50 lakh and there is a possibility that PCMC will have to spend another Rs 50 lakh for the whole exercise,” officials said. The major part of the expenditure was for printing the voters’ list, which cost the PCMC as much as Rs 27 lakh, they said.

Raising doubts over the new election system, NCP spokesperson Yogesh Behl said, “The issue of civic elections is before the Supreme Court. In its last order, the court had asked the SEC to announce civic elections in two weeks. It is clear that the court does not want any more delay in holding the civic elections. Therefore, I don’t think the Supreme Court will approve the latest state government decision. If the decision is implemented, it would mean further delay in conducting the elections which, I am sure, the SC will not like.”

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