MUMBAI: Counting of votes began this morning in the election to 147 municipal councils and 17 nagar panchayats across 25 districts in Maharashtra, seen as a litmus test for the Devendra Fadnavis' government.
As many as 15,826 candidates are in the fray for 3,705 seats spread over the municipal councils and nagar panchayats, where voting was held yesterday in the first phase with around 70 per cent of the electorate exercising its franchise.
No nominations were received for Shirala Nagar Panchayat in Sangli district while 28 candidates were elected unopposed. Counting of votes began at 10 AM. Polling was also held for municipal council presidents post in 147 places for which 1,013 candidates are in the race.
The polls are being viewed as 'mini' Assembly elections and a test of popularity of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who led the BJP campaign to make inroads in the rural areas where Congress and NCP hold sway. This is for the first time that presidents of municipal councils will be elected directly by people. The second phase for elections to 14 municipal councils will be held on December 14.
Demonetisation, farm distress, improvement in rural infrastructure and caste tensions due to morcha by various communities in the run up to the polls were the main issues apart from local matters. While ruling alliance partners, BJP and Shiv Sena, had tied up for the polls, the opposition Congress and NCP didn't formally announce any alliance.
While BJP projected development as its main plank, during the campaign Fadnavis hailed the demonetisation move as a major attack on black money. The Congress highlighted the hardships being faced by the poor and common man due to demonetisation among other issues.
In total, including yesterday's phase, elections are being held for 212 civic bodies, comprising municipal councils and nagar panchayats, in four phases. The next rounds of voting are scheduled on December 14, December 18, and January 8.