Mumbai : In a major decision having vast political implications, the state cabinet on Tuesday ratified the recommendation of the cabinet sub-committee to reintroduce direct elections to presidents of Municipal Councils and multi-member wards.

Minister for Finance and Planning Sudhir Mungantiwar, who was one of the members of the cabinet sub-committee, clarified that the decision pertains to municipal councils, direct elections to chairman of municipal councils and multi-member civic wards.

As per the decision, henceforth, voters will directly elect Council chairmen and that every ward will have two Councillors.

Former city council chairman of Badlapur Ram Patkar, who was the first directly elected chairman of the municipal council in 2002, welcomed the decision. He argued that the council president should be given administrative and financial powers to implement welfare and infrastructure projects. He added that the local councillors and the chairman works at the grassroots level and has understanding of the need of civic infrastructure in an area be it construction of roads, reservation on plots.

Sources disclosed that the decision was necessitated keeping in mind the ensuing elections to 195 municipal councils in the state that are due to be held in November-December later this year.

There are 223 Municipal Councils in the state. The decision shall necessitate amendment to section 51 of the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965. The Act earlier provided for the elected Councilors to elect the president from amongst themselves.

The political implications of the decision can be gauged from the fact that majority of the existing municipal councils are being ruled by the opposition Congress and NCP. But, this is not the first time that such a decision has been taken. In 2002 the electoral system of direct elections to council Chairman was introduced. However, in June 2006 the system was scrapped for it proved to be ineffective as the council chairman did not have any real administrative or financial powers.

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