The gruelling campaign for civic polls in Mumbai and nine other cities across Maharashtra ended this evening, with the BJP Shiv Sena rift casting a shadow over the stability of the Devendra Fadnavis government.
Dubbed as a mini Assembly election, over 1.94 crore voters across the state are entitled to exercise their franchise to choose representatives for 10 city corporations on February 21. On the same day 11 Zilla Parishads will go to the polls in the second phase. The first phase of the polls in 15 Zilla Parishads was held on February 16.
The electioneering assumed an unusually shrill pitch in the final phases largely due to the acrimony between BJP and Shiv Sena, fighting the civic polls separately for the first time in over two decades, though Congress, NCP and MNS are also in the fray.
Allegations and counter-allegations flew thick all through the run-up for the election, which has virtually turned into a battle of prestige for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, heading the state’s first BJP-led government, and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who led the front from their respective camps.
Congress, plagued by infighting in Mumbai, appears to have failed to take advantage of the BJP-Sena rift, according to political observers.
The big poll focus is on cash-rich Brhihanmumbai Municipal Cooperation (BMC), 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.
Shiv Sena has been in power in BMC for over two decades.
BJP, which had been a junior partner of Sena before it gained the upper hand through the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, declined to accept the number of seats offered by the Sena. It has set its eyes on gaining power in BMC, one of the world’s largest city bodies, boasting of an annual budget of over Rs. 37,000 crore.
In the political cacophony, larger civic issues like good roads, uninterrupted water supply and other basic amenities which the common man looks for, have largely drowned, the observers feel.
Midway through the campaign, Thackeray put the Fadnavis government on “notice period”, a threat which failed to deter the BJP from pushing ahead with its no-holds-barred assault on the estranged ally, mustering its full organisational strength.