Municipal Corporations polls in Mah on Feb 21
|Source: The Hitavada Date: 12 Jan 2017 09:05:54|
Polls to 26 Zilla Parishads will be held in two phases on February 16 and 21, counting of votes on Feb 23
THE stage is set for polls to 10 Municipal Corporations including cash-rich Mumbai civic body, 26 Zilla Parishads and 296 Panchayat Samitis in Mahararashtra from February 21 that will see nearly 80 per cent of the State’s population eligible to vote in what is being billed as mini Assembly elections.
Maharashtra State Election Commissioner J S Saharia on Wednesday announced that elections to 10 Municipal Corporations, including Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane and Pune, will be held on February 21.
Polls to 26 Zilla Parishads will be held in two phases on February 16 and 21, followed by counting of votes on February 23. Over seven crore voters in major cities and vast rural stretches areas will elect 1,258 corporators, 1,558 members of District Councils and 3,116 Panchayat Samiti members.
Stakes are high in the battle for the ruling BJP, which emerged as the winner in the just concluded four-phase elections to 191 Municipal Councils and 19 Nagar Panchayats of Maharashtra.
What is being eagerly watched is whether the BJP allies will clinch a firm pre-poll pact, given the strains in their relations despite sharing power in the State and Central Government.
Leaders of BJP and Shiv Sena have spoken of their willingness for an alliance in these polls, though no announcement on seat-sharing formula has been made so far.
The BJP has said it would soon start talks with Shiv Sena on forging the alliance.
The elections to local bodies, concluded earlier this week, were seen as a major test for the two-year-old Devendra Fadnavis Government, as it was speculated that demonetisation and caste polarisation due to stir by various communities including Marathas for reservation may hit the ruling party’s prospects.
The Congress, which finished second overall, with a total of 952 seats and 34 Council Presidents, will make all out efforts to do well in the Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samitis and improve its urban vote share.
The Congress has 458 members of the District Councils going to polls while NCP has 500 members. The BJP had 187 and Shiv Sena 240.
In the recent Municipal Council elections, the NCP finished with total 812 seats and won 22 Council President posts, while Shiv Sena secured 612 councillor seats and bagged 26 posts of Council President.
The Congress and NCP have left the decision for alliance to the local leadership while Fadnavis has asked his party functionaries to start talks with the Sena leaders at the district level.
The NCP is in power in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporations, while BJP rules the Nagpur civic body.
The Sena and BJP together rule Mumbai, Thane and Akola civic bodies while Congress is in power in Solapur and Amravati. The MNS rules the Nashik civic body.
The highlight of the civic polls would be the Brihanmumbai Municipal corporation (BMC), which is ruled by the Shiv Sena for 20 years.
BJP, the dominant partner in the ruling NDA Government, appears to be keen that the Sena recognises its strength in Maharashtra post the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
The Shiv Sena, however, is unwilling to yield its prime political space in Mumbai to the BJP, political observers say.
Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar said his party was “positive” about an alliance with the Shiv Sena.
“We are positive on the issue of an alliance with the Shiv Sena,” he told reporters.
“We will not get into the numbers game (of seat-sharing) publicly. We will invite the Sena for talks,” he added.
“Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has publicly spoken about an alliance for the upcoming Civic Polls. Accordingly, talks with the Sena will begin soon,” Shelar said.
Notably, Uddhav had recently said that he would pay his next visit to the BMC headquarters in March, “after the Shiv Sena elects its new Mayor”.
“I have come at a time when the five-year term is coming to an end. I will come again in March after the Sena elects its new Mayor,” he had said even as party workers raised slogans welcoming his statement.
Rapid urbanisation and infrastructure requirements to match the growth, hardships in the rural economy and agricultural distress would be some of the key issues during campaigning.
Congress leader Ratnakar Mahajan said the polls will be a referendum on the two-and-a-half years of the Devendra Fadnavis Government since both rural and urban voters will be exercising their franchise.
“The polls will also deliver a verdict on the economic disaster that has been thrust on the people by the BJP,” he claimed.
Mahajan described the BJP’s performance in the recent Municipal Council polls as “mixed”.
He said the BJP’s performance in the Municipal Council polls may not impact the results of the Zilla Parishad and Municipal Corporation polls since voting patterns in big cities, semi-urban and rural areas were different.