MUMBAI: Rules that allow housing societies with less than 200 members to elect management committees through a voice vote—a contentious issue after BJP used it to "prove its majority" in the assembly—have now met with opposition. Most societies say it is not a transparent voting method and that all housing societies should be made to vote through a secret ballot to ensure free and fair election. There are nearly 20,000 such societies with around 70 lakh members in the city.
State cooperative election authority (SCEA) officials, though, said such societies have to conduct elections through open voting. If the general body decides on a secret ballot, such a voting facility could be arranged by an SCEA-appointed polling officer. "However, the general body has to approve and decide on it with a majority before the polling officer announces the election," he said and added that in societies with more than 200 members, secret ballot was compulsory.
Ramesh Prabhu, president of Maharashtra Societies' Welfare Association, said: "This is necessary for free and fair elections. Also, there is no time period to appeal against a polling officer if the nomination is rejected in such societies." He also raised concerns over transparency in elections. Prabhu said remuneration for polling staffers was a paltry Rs 750, which left scope for corruption. He said as per law, the election machinery should be an independent body but cooperatives department staff is being pressed into election duty. Surendra More, vice-chairman of Bombay Suburban District Housing Federation, said, "Lack of awareness about election rules and authentic information about societies could badly impact transparency and thus credibility of election process."
Around 40% of the total 70,000 housing societies in Mumbai metropolitan region with a population of nearly one crore are due for elections. The new BJP-led government has announced the programme to hold elections in these societies. Around 500 societies have administrators appointed by the government.