About 56 per cent voters on Tuesday exercised franchise across 10 municipal corporations in Maharashtra, including the all-important Mumbai civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation which recorded a 55 per cent turn-out.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its bickering ally in the state government Shiv Sena, who could not form an alliance for the civic poll in the megapolis or elsewhere this time, fought keenly, lashing out freely at each other during the bitter campaign.
State Election Commission officials said, “56 per cent of the voters exercised franchise across 10 municipal corporations in Maharashtra, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation which recorded a 55 per cent turn-out.”
The turn-out for 11 Zilla Parishads and 118 panchayat samiti polls was better than in the cities, at 69 per cent, state election officials said on Tuesday evening.
The polling was peaceful across the state.
A total of 17,331 candidates are in the fray for 3,210 seats up for grabs in this second phase of civic/local body polls in Maharashtra, being seen as ‘mini general election’.
The stakes are high for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who led their respective parties from the front and were involved in a no-holds-barred campaign, relegating the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and other players like Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to the background.
Apart from Mumbai, the municipal corporations which went to the polls included Thane, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.
As many as 43,160 polling booths were set up and around 2.76 lakh election staff and equal number of police personnel were deployed for the conduct of the elections.
More than 1.80 crore electorate were eligible to exercise their franchise in the zilla parishads and panchayat samitis while the total number of urban voters stood at 1.95 crore.
In Mumbai, there are 2,275 candidates and 92 lakh voters.
The outcome in Asia’s largest civic body, run by the Shiv Sena with the BJP’s support for the last two decades, will decide the fate of the Devendra Fadnavis government.
Retaining the 227-member BMC is vital for Shiv Sena as the city has been its political heartland since its formation in 1966.
The campaign turned into a slugfest between the two parties, throwing up the question if there would be a parting of ways post-election.
The counting will take place on February 23.
The 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 in this poll, setting the stage for a high-voltage electioneering that saw charges and counter-charges flying thick.
The BJP has its eyes set on gaining power in BMC, one of world’s largest city bodies with an annual budget of over Rs 37,000 crore, undeterred by Sena’s threat of pulling the plug on the state government, which its chief put on ‘notice period’ shortly after the campaign took off.
The BJP flagged ‘transparency’ in civic administration as the central slogan while the Sena campaigned on its performance in the BMC over the last two decades.
Larger civic amenities like better roads, water supply and measures to contain pollution were drowned in the political cacophony of the campaign.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari cast their votes in Nagpur.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar voted in Mumbai.
Though it was a very busy and eventful day for N Chandrasekaran who took over as Tata Sons chairman, casting ballot took precedence over his professional engagements.
Bollywood celebrities like Rekha, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Zoya Akhtar, Gulzar and others were also seen in the queue to cast their votes for the BMC, some of them voicing concern over the civic amenities in the megapolis.
For 1,268 seats of the 10 municipal corporations, there are 9,208 candidates; for 11 zilla parishads there are 2,956 candidates for 654 seats, and 5,167 candidates for 1,288 seats in 118 panchayat samitis.
The first phase of 15 zilla parishads and 165 panchayat samitis polling was held on February 16 where 69 per cent voters exercised their franchise.
IMAGE: Voters queued-up at a polling booth in suburban Mulund in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photograph: Sahil Salvi