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Ward system set to be reverted, PCMC staff stare at repeat of poll preparation exercise


Over 800 election department employees of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), who have been working to set the civic election process in motion for the last one year, are staring at a repeat of the entire exercise with the state’s new Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government decision to revert to the 2017 four-ward system. This would also mean that the municipal corporation will have to incur another round of expenditure worth Rs 50 lakh, officials said.

On Wednesday, the state cabinet decided to go back to the four-ward system for civic elections across the state, setting aside the three-ward system decision taken by the previous Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last year.

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Civic officials said that they have not received any intimation from the State Election Commission (SEC) in the regard so far. “We are awaiting further instructions from the SEC,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner Balasaheb Khandekar, who heads the PCMC’s election department, told The Indian Express on Friday.
“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. For the three-member system, PCMC was supposed to have 139 corporators.

PCMC election officials said once the SEC conveys its decision to them, they will have to get down to the exercise of demarcation of wards, preparing voters list, and organising draw of lots for reserving wards for different category of people. “As I said, we are awaiting SEC directives. As soon we get the directives, we will get down to the task,” said Khandekar.

For three-member ward system, said PCMC officials, over 800 civic election department employees and officials toiled to carry out the exercise of updating the voters’ list as per the 2011 census, drawing new boundaries of wards, taking up objections and suggestions, and 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,” 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 done of printing of voters list which cost the civic body Rs 27 lakh.

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Raising doubts over the new election system, Nationalist Congress Party (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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