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THE state government’s decision to go with a four-ward panel seems to have played a major role in the BJP’s unprecedented win in the municipal corporation elections. A little number crunching makes it amply clear that the panel system with an average voters count of 70,000-80,000 prompted voters to think in terms of parties instead of candidates while voting. With its continuing popularity in the state as displayed in the general and assembly polls, the BJP gained from the panel formations.
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A closer look at the voting pattern among all nine municipal corporations out of ten (as BMC continued with ward system), shows that voters often chose to vote for a single party while choosing for all four members in a panel.
For example, in Nagpur out of total 38 panels with each having four wards, in 21 panels voters gave all four votes to a single party. In 19 of these 21 panels, winners were BJP candidates. This essentially means almost 70 per cent (78 candidates) winners of the total 108.
In Pune too, single party voting happened in 17 out of 41 panels, with the BJP winning 14 of them. In PCMC, voters in 14 out of 32 panels voted in this manner, out of which the BJP managed to win 12.
When the announcement about the four-ward panel was made by the state government last year, party leaders from the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the MNS had expresed their reservations saying the decision by the Fadnavis government would affect them badly and give an edge to the BJP. They also alleged that the panel structuring was done as per the convenience of BJP candidates. All allegations of favour to the BJP were denied by the party as well as by election officials who played a part in delimitation.
However, political analysts like Chandrakant Bhujbal believe the new panel system played a considerable role in the BJP’s win. “I would give a 20-30 per cent credit to the four-ward panel system. The new panel system helped them encash the party’s popularity in addition to local factors. The larger panel and four votes per voter means that party assumes more importance than the candidates,” said Bhujbal.
As per Manasi Phadke of Ghokale Institute of Politics and Economics, the BJP party workers used the four-ward panel to mislead voters into casting votes to their party.
“We received several complaints from the voters that party workers were telling them that they have to vote for all four candidates from a single party, failing which their vote will be adjudged invalid,” she said.