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, began on Tuesday in Mumbai.
The voting began at 7:30 am and people in different parts of the city were seen standing in queues outside polling centres to cast their votes.
Apart from the ten civic bodies, the second phase of polling for 11 Zilla Parishads (ZPs) and 118 panchayat samitis also began today.
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 Brihanmumbai Municipal Cooperation (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.