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‘Alliance can’t be one-sided’ — why women’s quota in BMC polls has Congress miffed with ally Sena

Congress holds 29 wards in BMC, of which 21 have been reserved for women ahead of polls. Party leaders accuse Sena of 'preferential system' in demarcating wards.

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Mumbai: More than two-thirds of the wards currently held by the Congress in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been reserved for women ahead of the upcoming local body polls, causing the party to lash out at its Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance partner, the Shiv Sena.

While the parties are part of the same coalition government in the state, they are on opposite sides of the BMC, the country’s richest civic body, in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena has dominated the BMC for more than 25 years, while the Congress’s share has steadily fallen, reaching its lowest point in the last civic body elections in 2017.

Out of a total 236 wards in the city, the Congress currently has only 29 elected corporators, but 21 of these wards have now been reserved for women.

Speaking to ThePrint, former Congress corporator and opposition leader in the BMC Ravi Raja accused the Shiv Sena of employing a “preferential system” in demarcating wards for reservations.

“In the last elections in 2017, the census of 2011 was considered and all seats were drawn as a lottery, including OBC and other seats. But this time around, they have used a preferential system in their categorisation. In their demarcation itself, there is a preferential treatment. It should have been fresh. But what we have seen is that the Shiv Sena has made the Congress a soft target and it is deliberate,” Raja said.

What Raja was alluding to is that only some seats were drawn by lottery, while others were decided on the basis of reservations instituted in the previous three BMC elections.

On Sunday, former Union minister and Congress leader Milind Deora also expressed his displeasure and said that political alliances cannot be “one-sided”.

Tagging the party’s central leadership — Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — Deora tweeted that the “greatest casualty” of the BMC’s ward reservation was the Congress, “despite being an MVA ally”.

The Shiv Sena, however, has denied any wrongdoing.

Outgoing mayor Kishori Pednekar told ThePrint that the reservation was done via a lottery system. “The Congress is a very old party that has fought the most elections. Here, a lottery system was drawn. So, nobody played anyone here,” she said.

The ward reservation exercise for the upcoming BMC elections was conducted last week in the presence of BMC administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal. Schoolchildren from BMC-run schools drew the lottery. However, only 63 out of a total of 118 women’s seats were included in the lottery exercise.

Also Read: Sena also ‘settling scores through agencies’? How BMC notices to opponents bear party’s stamp

Ward reservations only partly by lottery

In all, 118 out of 236 BMC wards — 50 per cent — have been reserved for women. Among these, 109 are in the general category, and eight and one for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories respectively.

The general category seats reserved for women, however, were decided largely based on previous elections rather than via the lottery system.

In the first category, wards that had not been reserved in the three previous elections — 2007, 2012, and 2017— were earmarked for women. A total of 53 wards came under this category.

In the second category, wards that had been reserved for women in 2007, but not in 2012 and 2017, were set aside for women. There were 33 wards in this category.

The third category comprised wards that were reserved for women in 2012 but not in 2007 or 2017. These added up to 63, but only 23 could be reserved so as to make up the total of 109 seats for women in the general category.

These 23 seats were decided via the lottery system out of the total pool of 63 wards.

This is where Raja had alleged that the first two categories were already decided, and that in the last category only 23 seats were drawn from lottery system.

“This time, the delimitation of wards was done [keeping in mind] the 3-4 per cent rise in population after the 2011 census. That’s what was said by the urban development minister in the House. So, everything is new. They should have come up with a new lottery for all seats,” Raja, whose ward also falls under reserved category now, said.

The Shiv Sena’s Kishori Pednekar, however, said that the ward reservation was done in line with the State Election Commission’s notification.

Her own ward has been divided into three in the delimitation exercise, Pednekar added. “Out of these three, one is general open category and two are women wards. I will fight in the open category,” she said.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read:Panic & unrest’ in Maharashtra Congress as outsider Pratapgarhi who lost 2019 polls gets RS nod


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