Prior to civic polls, govt may go for amending Maharashtra Slum Act to legalise slums up to the year 2000 to garner votes; NCP-Cong to contest jointly in 7 municipalities
In the midst of reports that the Congress and NCP have resolved to contest the polls jointly in at least seven civic bodies, moves are afoot by the grand old party to garner maximum votes. Prominent Congress leaders from the city are still pushing the Democratic Front government to go for an amendment to Maharashtra Slum Act, 1971 to bring slums built up to 2000 under the protection of the law.

Eyes on the prize: Home Minister R R Patil outside Varsha, the CM's
bungalow, after attending a poll-related meeting between the Congress
and the NCP leaders yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

"If the state decides to introduce changes to the act and goes before the Supreme Court, it is possible to realise the promise to protect slums built up to the year 2000," said a Congress minister. "A move to modify Development Control (DC) rules to protect the dwellers in shanties is gaining ground," he added.

"We are of the view that it's just a technical issue and that provisions should be made to protect the slums. Later it should be brought to the notice of the SC," said Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh. With him, Congress ministers and MLAs from Mumbai are all for the changes as demonstrated in the party meetings.

The Congress is making all out efforts to win the city voters by announcing a slew of poll sops. The decision to approve two hospitals -- one each for Western and Central suburbs - was taken at the last moment during the state cabinet meeting on Monday. Public Health Minister Suresh Shetty was believed to have been quite aggressive on the issue and persuaded Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to announce it during the media briefing.
Seat sharing
Meanwhile, both the Congress and NCP leaders decided to fight civic elections in seven cities jointly. The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by CM Chavan at his official residence Varsha.  The meeting was attended by MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre, NCP chief Madhukar Pichad and others.

The seat sharing talks will be held tomorrow, sources from Congress said. They mentioned that the party may not offer 65 of the 227 seats in Mumbai to NCP, which has limited presence in the city. "The party cannot claim so many seats just because it fought last BMC elections on its own," said a Congress leader.

Further, a decision by six Congress corporators from Pimpri-Chinchwad civic body to join NCP may not augur well for the alliance as the move is believed to have been orchestrated by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

Sync counting, demands Oppn
Meanwhile, BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS have demanded electoral counting for the civic and local body polls at one go. The results of local body elections, if announced on February 7 as per the schedule, will certainly have an effect on the civic polls, scheduled on February 16, argued Leader of Opposition in State Council Vinod Tawde. Sena leader Subhash Desai and MNS leaders too have made the same demand separately.