MUMBAI: Winning the elections to the 10 Municipal Corporations and 25 district councils (Zilla Parishad - ZP) — termed as mini-Assembly elections — is crucial for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra as it would keep political ambitions of its ally Shiv Sena in check and would also smoothen up its road ahead.
Mumbai, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Amravati, Akola and Nagpur are the 10 municipal corporations that would vote on Tuesday. The Shiv Sena holds the mayor’s post in Mumbai, Thane and Ulhasnagar, while the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is in power in Nashik.
The BJP, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) control two corporations each, of which the BJP is confident of wresting power in Solapur and Amravati from the Congress and Pimpri-Chinchwad from the NCP, all while strengthening its position in Nagpur and Akola. The biggest fight would be in Mumbai though.
After the 2014 Assembly elections, where the BJP emerged as the single largest party with just 13 short of majority, the political equation in the State has changed. In Nashik, where the MNS had an absolute majority, most of its corporators have joined either the BJP or the Shiv Sena. Same is the case with Pimpri-Chinchwad, where a major chunk of NCP corporators have moved to the BJP.
Unlike most of the other corporations, the Congress and the NCP have joined hands in Thane. However, they are unlikely to benefit from the alliance due to infighting among several factions. The Shiv Sena might emerge stronger in the city.
Another major factor that might help the BJP in the nine Municipal Corporations except Mumbai is the newly introduced system of multi-member civic wards. The BJP had introduced a similar system in the recent municipal council polls in the State and emerged as the largest seat gainer. Party leaders are expecting a similar effect in the municipal corporations except Mumbai.
In Mumbai, the BJP is banking on the reorganisation of the electoral wards. The battle in Mumbai is centred around Shiv Sena’s core strength - the issue of Marathi Manoos. After the reorganisation, 112 of 227 wards are dominated by Marathi voters, while 69 are dominated by non-Marathi (Gujarati, north Indians and Muslims) voters.
The BJP is eyeing a major share of these Gujarati and north Indian votes, apart from trying to make inroads into some of the Shiv Sena’s long-held bastions like Goregaon and Borivali. Moreover, the Shiv Sena and the MNS are likely to split the Marathi votes. To counter this, the Shiv Sena targeted non-Marathi voters with radio jingles in Hindi and campaign material in Urdu.