Prestige of several local political heavyweights will be at stake when two municipal corporations in Maharashtra go to the polls on August 1.
The elections to Jalgaon and Sangli municipal corporations are being held ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Maharashtra and will test the popularity of leaders of various political parties in these cities.
The 78-member Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation has 41 Congress members and 19 from the NCP. The BJP has no representation in the civic body, while there are nine Independents and eight members from local outfits. The Raj Thackeray-led MNS has one member.
In the 75-member Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC), the BJP has 15 and the NCP 11 members. There are 12 corporators from the MNS, 36 members from local outfits and one Independent. The BJP is in power in the JMC with the support of local outfits.
The term of the Sangli corporation ends on August 13, while that of the JMC on September 19. Elections to both civic bodies will be held on August 1 and counting of votes will take place on August 3.
Jalgaon, in North Maharashtra, is home turf of BJP heavyweights Eknath Khadse and Girish Mahajan, while Sangli, in Western Maharashtra, is native place of state NCP president Jayant Patil and Congress leader Vishwajit Kadam.
In Jalgaon, there is unease in the BJP’s ranks over the party’s collaboration with local strongman Suresh Jain, a former MLA who spent time in jail on corruption charges, for the polls, a party source said.
“Civic issues are the same in all urban areas across the state. Politically people are in a dilemma. They are yearning for an alternative, but nothing is in sight as yet in the form of the Congress or the NCP,” the source said.
In all likelihood, the BJP will retain power in the civic body, he said.
A BJP source said the party has given a substantial number of tickets to close associates of Jain.
“For 25 to 30 years, the BJP took on the corruption of Suresh Jain, who was also jailed for more than three years. Now, the BJP has given tickets to his associates.
“People want to know if the allegations of corruption levelled by the BJP against Jain still remain,” the source added.
Prithviraj Patil, Sangli district Congress chief, said his party has adopted a collective leadership approach to fight the polls.
Vishwajit Kadam, Congress veteran late Vasantdada Patil’s grandson Pratik Patil and daughter-in-law Jayshri Patil and Prithviraj Patil, son of former MPCC chief and MP Gulabrao Patil, are leading the party in the Sangli civic polls.
Vishwajit Kadam in May won the Palus Kadegaon assembly bypoll unopposed after the death of his father, senior Congressman Patangrao Kadam, who was the sitting MLA from the seat in Sangli district.
“If the party succeeds in retaining the Sangli civic body, Vishwajit will get a chance to establish himself in the Sangli city and later the entire district,” he said.
Prithviraj Patil said for the first time, the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP have a pre-poll alliance for the civic polls in Sangli.
“In 2008, despite being in power in the state, the NCP was part of an alliance against the Congress in the civic polls. The experiment did not last and in 2013, the Congress won a thumping majority,” he said.
The BJP is making a determined bid to expand its base in Sangli district, once considered a stronghold of the Congress and the NCP.
In 2014, the BJP bagged the Sangli Lok Sabha seat, while in the assembly polls (held in October 2014), the party got four seats.
The NCP bagged two assembly seats in the district, while the Shiv Sena and Congress won one each.