Parties gear up for Mumbai civic polls

TOP political leaders from different parties and across India will begin campaigning in Mumbai for the prestigious February 16 elections to the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s richest civic body.

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Published: Sun 29 Jan 2012, 10:23 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:27 AM

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — which is in power in the BMC along with the Shiv Sena — is banking heavily on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is popular among the vast Gujarati community in the metropolis, to bring it much-needed votes, the Congress is also expected to rope in some of its leaders from the neighbouring state.

The Congress is also flying in nearly a dozen union ministers including veterans such as Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni and Jairam Ramesh, to campaign for its candidates in the country’s commercial and financial capital.

February will see a mini-assembly election of sorts in Maharashtra, with the electorate in 10 of its top cities exercising their franchise in local elections. Besides elections to the 10 municipal corporations – of Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nagpur, Nashik, Ulhasnagar, Solapur, Akola and Amravati – there will be voting for 27 district-level bodies (or Zilla Parishads) across the state.

The ruling front partners in the state, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who share an uneasy relationship in Maharashtra, are hoping to emerge victorious in the mini-assembly elections. The NCP, led by union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, came out with an astounding performance in last month’s elections to nearly 200 municipal councils.

The Shiv Sena-BJP combine, which has been ruling the BMC for several years, appears shaky, what with a formidable challenge from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), founded by Raj, the estranged nephew of Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena supremo.

The MNS has a strong base in parts of Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik and could shatter the prospects of several candidates of the saffron combine. An enthusiastic NCP, which traditionally was weak in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Nagpur, is hopeful of upsetting not just the plans of the Hindutva partners, but even of its ally, the Congress.

In fact, the Congress is worried that the NCP might emerge as the largest party in Maharashtra following next month’s local elections.

The party has succeeded in winning over several powerful local leaders across the state from both the Shiv Sena and the Congress.

Pawar, the wily Maratha strongman, last week gave a jolt to the Sena when he lured Anand Paranjpe, a Shiv Sena MP from Kalyan-Dombivli, to share a platform with him. Paranjpe openly admitted that he admired Pawar

The Sena is worried that the machinations of the NCP and the presence of the MNS would result in its being wiped out in several local bodies.

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