Mumbai: Elections to the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and nine other civic bodies in Maharashtra, which have virtually turned into a battle of prestige for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, heading the state’s first BJP-led government, and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, will be held on Tuesday. Apart from the ten civic bodies, the second phase of polling for 11 Zilla Parishads (ZPs) and 118 panchayat samitis will also be conducted on Tuesday.
Dubbed as a “mini Assembly election”, over 1.95 crore voters across the state are entitled to exercise their franchise to choose representatives for ten city corporations, while over 1.80 crore people can cast their votes in the ZP and panchayat samiti polls. “Collectively, 3.77 crore voters are eligible to decide the fate of 17,331 candidates in rural and urban areas, including Mumbai,” State Election Commissioner J S Saharia told reporters here, adding that the election machinery is fully geared up to ensure free and fair voting.
Stakes are high for Fadnavis and Thackeray, who have led their respective parties from the front and were involved in a high decibel and no holds barred campaign. Bitter acrimony between BJP and Shiv Sena that are fighting the civic polls separately for the first time in over two decades, marked the electioneering. Congress, NCP and MNS are also in the fray.
Saharia said for the 1,268 seats across the ten municipal corporations, 9,208 candidates are in the fray, whereas for 11 ZPs, total 2,956 candidates will try their luck for 654 seats. For the 1,288 seats across 118 panchayat samitis, total 5,167 candidates are in the fray. “As many as 43,160 polling booths have been set up. There will be 2.76 lakh election staff and equal number of police personnel on the duty,” Saharia said.
In Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, total 2,275 candidates are in fray for the 227 seats. 92 lakh people are eligible to cast the vote in the megapolis, he said, adding that there will be 7,304 polling stations. In municipal corporations excluding Mumbai, there are multi–member wards, where a voter will have to cast his vote for each of the category in the panel. Each panel has more than two wards.
The big poll focus is on 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.
Besides Mumbai, the other municipal corporations going to polls on Tuesday include Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Akola, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Solapur. Giving a break-up of candidates in the nine civic bodies, Saharia said 805 candidates are contesting polls for the 131-member Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), 479 for the 78-member Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC), 774 for the 128 seats in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and 623 are in the fray for the 102-member Solapur Municipal Corporation (SMP).
Similarly, for the 122-member Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC), there are 821 candidates in the fray, whereas for the 80-member Akola Municipal Corporation (AMC), 579 candidates are fighting the election. For the 151-member Nagpur civic corporation, there are 1,135 candidates in fray, while for the 162 seats of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), a total 1,090 candidates are contesting the election, Saharia said.
Giving details of the implementation of the code of conduct, Saharia said over 200 illegal weapons were seized in different parts of the state in which 188 weapons were seized from areas under municipal corporations. Police seized three lakh litres of liquor, he said, adding that the Excise Department seized alcohol worth over Rs four crore, Saharia said. According to him, 338 cases of poll code violations were registered, he said, adding that as many as 371 persons were externed. “Action of preventive detention was taken against 33,000 people, including 3,000 in Mumbai. Cash worth Rs 61 lakh was seized,” he said.
According to Saharia, for 11 ZPs, there are 22,000 polling stations and 1.5 lakh election staff will be on duty “for the ten municipal corporations, there are 21,000 polling stations and 1.3 lakh election staff will be on duty,” he said.