Why you should care about BMC elections

With BMC elections fast approaching, it is crucial for citizens to understand its relevance and how it handles civic issues.

The term for Mumbai’s corporators closes in March 2022, and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai’s civic body, has started preparations for the upcoming civic elections. 227 elected corporators from across 24 administrative wards are accountable to represent citizens and their local issues in the city council. This makes it important for Mumbaikars to elect the right candidate in their wards.

The BMC, also known as Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), is one of the richest municipal corporations in the world. It is sitting on fixed deposits of over Rs 80,000 crore and has an annual budget of over Rs 30,000 crore, comparable to the budgets of smaller countries around the globe and bigger than even some states in India. Goa’s annual budget for the ongoing fiscal is over Rs 21,000 crore, while Sikkim’s is just over Rs 9,000 crore.

The BMC issues birth certificates, death certificates, it regulates trading licenses, fire compliances, issues health certificates, manages open spaces including gardens and playgrounds, handles solid waste and more. It also the local planning authority for the city and looks after the urban development, which means that for Mumbaikars, interaction with the city corporation is inevitable.

The importance of local body elections

In India, administration is broadly divided into three categories which include the Central government, state government, and local authorities which include municipal corporations, councils, gram panchayat, etc. In the case of Mumbai, it is the BMC that is responsible for local governance.

a crowd of men at a BJP rally for elections in Mumbai
A politcal rally in Mumbai | Photo: Al Jazeera, Flickr, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Having elected representatives in the city corporation makes the local government accountable to citizens. Corporators raise civic issues in the BMC council, and demand for statements from the Commissioner, the administrative chief of the local body. 

“Citizens should focus on BMC elections as their local civic issues are dependent on the local governing body. All major necessities services like water, sewage, public health and transport are all provided by BMC,” says AV Shenoy, a member of Mumbai Vikas Samiti (MVS), a body of experts comprised of architects and urban planners.

If there is no water supply in my house or there are potholes in my street, I need to get in touch with my corporator rather than an MLA or MP. An MLA or MP’s job is that of a legislator – to represent their constituency in the assembly or parliament, drafting laws, passing bills etc.

As of April 2019, there were a total of around 96 lakh voters in the city. The process of electing corporators is similar to electing our MLA or MP for which the state election commission is empowered to conduct elections. All citizens registered on the rolls are allowed to go and vote on the day decided by the state election commission. Last month the state government increased the strength of the BMC from 227 to 236. So in the upcoming election, the voters will elect 236 corporators in the city.

The BMC Council

The city is divided into seven zones which have 24 administrative wards, and there are 227 electoral wards. Each electoral ward has an elected representative who is the Corporator – also referred to the councillor, representing the ward’s voters in the BMC council.

The elected corporators, who are responsible for the basic civic infrastructure and enforcing duty. The role of a corporator is:

  • To propose civic development works in their respective electoral wards ranging from that of roads, drainage, waste management etc
  • Drafting policy relating to civic issues of the city.
  • The corporators are appointed as members of around two dozen committees of the civic body ranging from standing committee that passes any proposal above Rs 50 lakh to tree authority, ward committee, health committee, high-rise buildings committee, garden committee etc.
  • In the house, the corporators can propose policies, debate, discuss and pass budgets relating to the civic body. 

Ward committees

There are 17 ward committees that constitute the 24 wards (one ward committee per administrative ward) whose members include the corporators representing the electoral wards, the ward officer and up to three members belonging to local NGOs and civil society organisations. 

Read more: Who can contest BMC elections?

The role of the ward committee is to serve as a bridge between BMC and citizens. The Ward Committees meet regularly to review work, budgets and grievances. They are also authorised to sanction municipal works costing upto Rs 5 lakh each.

Corporators are associated with individual electoral wards. Whereas, local administrative officials are appointed at the administrative ward level, with specific responsibilities like health officer, water department in charge, road engineer, waste management officer, illegal construction department etc.

How does BMC govern?

The BMC is headed by an IAS officer who serves as Municipal Commissioner, appointed by the state, wielding executive power.

BMC also includes a large number of committees to handle different areas. This includes a standing committee that handles all major civic proposals that are of above Rs 50 lakh followed by garden committee, tree authority, public health committee, heritage committee, Mumbai Highrise building committee are a few of the committees under which the majority of the civic issues are looked after. The annual financial budget is first cleared in the standing committee and is later presented in the house.

Mumbai Elections: Time for a new council 

The BMC has started the process of verification for delimitation of the boundaries of the administrative wards. Post this, the BMC will submit the list to the state election commission for suggestions and objections. The BMC is also expected to increase the number of booths this year in view of Covid-19 to ensure social distancing while conducting voting.

The current party strength of 227 seats is Shiv Sena having 97 seats, BJP having 83 seats, Congress 29, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) eight seats, Samajwadi Party (SP) six seats, AIMIM two seats, and one seat that of MNS.

AV Shenoy from MVS says, “While electing new corporators, the citizens must study the past performance of the BMC and the local corporators. They should also consider their functioning, utilization of the funds, and issues raised for their areas, and ensure that the proper representatives are elected.”

This explainer is part of a series on ‘Explainers and Information Resources for Mumbaikars’ supported by a grant from the A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.

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