Mumbai has voted and decided the fate of the party, which will control the country’s richest civic body i.e. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The contest was fought between Shiv Sena and BJP while other parties were silent. Ahead of the elections, Sena called off its two-decade old alliance with the BJP and the two parties got engaged in a tussle, often personal, during campaign. Voting was also held for nine other municipalities in Maharashtra. For BMC, there were 2,275 candidates in 227 municipal wards in the fray with the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, who pitted against each other. The fate of one party would be decided and that could impact the future of the ruling alliance in the state.
As usual this time also there were many glitches like delay in release of voters’ list, many names went missing and many appeared with wrong information and that might have an impact on the poll results. The release of list of voters got delayed and there was also a change in polling booths. Many voters did not receive their voting slip, which has prevented them from exercising their franchise. Mumbai recorded only 16.40% voter turnout till 11.30am, which nearly doubled from 8.7% till 9.30 am, some of the city’s upmarket parts in South Mumbai saw very indifferent voter response till 11.30am. However, by evening the city registered a record voter turnout of 55%, up nearly 10% over the 2012 figure. Pimpri-Chinchwad reported 67%, followed by Pune which saw 54%, Thane 58%, Solapur 60%, Nashik 60%, and Satara 70% respectively. Nagpur, the home town of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis witnessed 53% turnout and Akola city in Vidarbha reported 56% turnout and Ulhasnagar 45%.
This time, there was a huge turnout of senior citizens at poll booth as compared to youth. Prominent Mumbai residents, politicians and celebrities turned out to vote with their families. While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis casted his vote in Nagpur, NCP president Sharad Pawar voted in Mumbai. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actor Anushka Sharma, veteran industrialist Ratan Tata and a host of other prominent Mumbai residents took part in polling in the early hours of voting.
The BMC election is a major prestige battle with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray leading their parties from the front, attacking each other ferociously. If the BJP loses, Fadnavis will face criticism, it will prove that people are not satisfied with his performance. That does not mean Sena will win on its performance or merits, but the anger against BJP may fetch the fortune for them. If Shiv Sena loses control of the BMC, which it has dominated for two decades, its loss of political space will be complete after the BJP dominated the last General and assembly elections redefining itself as the senior partner in the alliance after playing junior to the Sena for years. Shiv Sena has been playing proxy opposition to the BJP. Sena leaders have taken every opportunity to criticise the Narendra Modi government – from its handling of demonetisation to its Pakistan policy and handling of floods and droughts in the country.
There are 227 seats in the BMC. Shiv Sena had won 75 seats last time, this time it’s expected to be 100 seats. Richest civic body with worst roads, hygiene, slums and illegal occupancy should go away.
Anyway, more than Uddhav Thackeray, BMC results are very much important for Devendra Fadnavis and BJP. It will be a trial of survival for the ruling Shiv Sena while BJP is seeing the electoral battle to take control of Asia’s richest civic body to create space for itself in the city’s political landscape. If the Shiv Sena fails to win BMC polls, it will be a major dent to the party in the Maharashtra political space as we all know BJP and Sena both are not in good terms with each other. Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray, who have led their respective parties from the front and were involved in a high decibel and no holds barred campaign relegating the Opposition Congress and NCP to the background.
The big poll focus will be on 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, retaining control of which is vital for Shiv Sena as the city has remained its prime political space ever since the party’s formation in 1966. BMC is the most cash rich corporation in the country with an annual budget of Rs. 37,000 crores. Parties like Congress, NCP and MNS are also contesting the BMC polls but none of them can compete with full majority and they are not in war zone with anyone. Drinking water, roads and garbage are the key issues for the BMC polls this year. Mumbai needs good roads, corruption free BMC, water supply and cleanliness, which Shiv Sena never bothered to take care of Mumbaikars’ demands. This time, let’s hope for better Mumbai and good governance at the civic body.
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