Mumbai: Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) on Wednesday received a setback with the state election commission de-registering the party, along with 190 others, for not filing proof of their tax returns and audited accounts.
The party that made a shock entry to Maharashtra’s electoral politics in 2014 when it won two seats in the legislative assembly and emerged a close second in the Aurangabad municipal elections the next year, must now rush to get itself registered again or risk being left out of early-2017 civic body elections in Mumbai and eight other cities that it had planned to contest.
Other de-registered parties are sundry political outfits with little political reach.
State election commissioner J.S. Saharia said the commission de-registered these parties after serving notices and reminders to submit copies of tax returns and audited accounts, which is mandatory under the Representation of the People Act.
Political parties not registered with the Election Commission of India or the state election commissions cannot contest any election. If the MIM does not get itself registered again before the civic elections, its absence could seriously alter the dynamics of elections to Mumbai’s civic body ruled by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine.
Saharia said the parties could re-apply but they will have to submit all the mandatory documents. Asked if there was a deadline for these parties to follow, Saharia said if they wanted to reapply they should do that “at the earliest".
Jagdish More, public relations officer for the state election commission said the de-registered political parties will have to pay a penalty of ₹ 1 lakh each and submit all required documents to get registered again. “This process should take a maximum of three months from the day the political parties pay the penalty and submit the documents," More said. He said it takes about three months for a new political party to get registered.
Representation of the People Act requires political parties to submit copies of tax returns and audited accounts for each financial year to the Election Commission of India in case of national parties and to the state election commission for regional parties.
Nine major municipal corporations in the state including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) go to polls in February 2017. The MIM, which does not currently have a single councillor in Mumbai, has emerged a serious player since the last civic polls in 2012. In the October 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections, it won two seats — one from Mumbai and the other from Aurangabad. In the Aurangabad municipal elections in 2015, the MIM won as many as 26 seats and emerged the second largest party after the Shiv Sena, which barely managed to retain power.
Of the 227 civic wards in Mumbai, at least 60 have a significant Muslim population and the MIM has quietly been making inroads into this constituency since the 2014 assembly elections. A Mumbai BJP leader, who is leading his party’s campaign for the civic polls, said on the condition of anonymity that the MIM would be “the most serious claimant of the Muslim vote in Mumbai civic polls as all other so-called secular claimants like Congress and Samajwadi Party have been discredited." But this leader also admitted that the BJP’s prospects would also be adversely affected if the MIM was not a contestant. “We obviously won’t get a major chunk of Muslim votes and the Congress would be a major beneficiary," he said.
It is in this context that the state election commission’s decision to de-register MIM raises questions over the party’s prospects in the civic polls and its very likelihood of being a contestant.
An MIM leader conceded it was the party’s error. “The Maharashtra election commission’s office had already communicated to us about this. Nearly two months ago, one of our colleagues had met them and apologized, saying we will rectify it. Unfortunately, we did not correct it and our recognition stands cancelled now," a senior party functionary said requesting anonymity.
“We are going to reapply, but it is unlikely that the application will go through before the civic polls. If that happens, we will not be able to contest under party symbol but we can still field independent candidates," the leader added.
Imtiyaz Jaleel, MIM legislator from Aurangabad, said the party would definitely re-apply for registration and submit all documents as required under the law. “We have not seen the order so far and only came to know from TV. But we will definitely re-apply for registration and make every effort to be a contestant in the civic polls. I do not know how long it will take to get registered again, but we will follow the law," Jaleel said.