|Candidates collect forms while a jawan stands guard at the district collectorate in Ranchi on Wednesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Jharkhand Municipality Act, 2011, which makes it compulsory for a poll aspirant to be a voter from the same ward from where he wants to contest for the post of ward commissioner, is grounding ambitions of many.
“In last civic poll, I had contested for the post of ward commissioner from ward 18. My name was in the same ward’s voters’ list,” recalled Afroj Alam (50).
“This time, too, I thought of contesting from ward 18 but now I find that my name is in the voters’ list of a booth in ward 15,” added the resident of Karbala Tank Road.
Alam had been working in ward 18 and had been talking to local residents to support him in his poll venture. Now that his name figures in ward 15, he cannot contest for the ward commissioner’s post for ward 18.
“I do not know what to do. If I contest from ward 15, I will not be able to do well as my supporters are residents of ward 18,” rued Alam, who previously campaigned and worked for RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
However, he is not the only one facing such a predicament. There are several others. “In the last civic body poll in 2008, I was a voter of ward 10 (Lalpur area). In this poll, I found my name in ward 20,” said Vinod Kumar (28), another ward commissioner aspirant.
“I wanted to contest from ward 10, which I now cannot.”
Both ward number 10 (Lalpur area) and ward 20 (Burdhwan Compound) are adjacent to each other.
In the last civic body poll conducted under Ranchi Municipal Corporation Act 2001, there was no binding on wards and aspirants could contest from any ward in the city.
But, the Jharkhand Municipality Act, 2011, mandates that a ward commissioner aspirant ought to have his name in the voter list of the ward from where he wants to contest.
This rule apart, in the last civic body election, Ranchi had around 1,000 booths. Now, the number has gone up to around 1,800. Hence, some names have been moved from one booth to another. And though these may actually be neighbouring booths, they could end up serving two different wards.
While both Alam and Kumar are victims of booth reorganisation, there are those who had consciously chosen to contest outside their home wards.
“This new rule bars the right of a person to contest from any place. When MLAs and MPs can contest from any constituency they want, why stop us,”reasoned Samrat Chatterjee, son of transporter and well-known Congress leader Chanchal Chatterjee.
“I want to go through the voters’ list on the Net and find out where my name figures,” said Ashok Baraik, a ward commissioner aspirant from ward 28, while poring over the state election commission website on his tablet.
M.K. Jha, secretary of state election commission said he was aware of such complaints. “We have received complaints from residents. We will see what can be done,” he said.