A day before the elections to 164 municipal councils in the state, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis concluded the BJP’s aggressive campaign for phase 1 on Saturday with the last of 40 poll rallies held across 25 districts. Demonestisation and development in Maharashtra were the twin planks of the entire campaign. The otherwise caste-driven campaigns saw none of the top politicians across party lines evoking the caste card in the month-long campaign.
A senior Kranti Maratha Morcha leader said, “In the last four months we had held more than 35 mega rallies to unite the Marathas on reservation issue. But the caste card was replaced with currency.”
OBC leader Anil Mahajan said, “Maratha rallies led to major consolidation of Dalits and OBCs at the grassroot level. Therefore, those banking on Maratha reservation preferred to speak on demonetisation hoping it would appeal to one and all.”
As per sources, major political parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP — believe that that polling for the elections on Sunday could be a verdict on national policy of currency change.
However, municipal council polls saw the mainstream parties sticking to local district groups to strengthen their base.
The elections for the total 212 municipal councils and nagar panchayats are scheduled between November 27 and January 8. Of these, the first phase polling will be for 164 municipal councils. Almost 58.47 lakh people will cast their votes for 3,705 seats, while 15,826 candidates are contesting the polls. Election Commissioner JS Sahariya said there would be 7,641 polling centres in the state.
Unlike in the past, the local bodies’ elections in Maharashtra are being fiercely contested with the top leadership of all major parties taking to the streets. From NCP president Sharad Pawar to former Congress chief ministers Ashok Chavan, and Prithviraj Chavan, Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray took the centre stage.
“With the elections coinciding with demonetisation, the latter became the main poll plank,” said Vikhe-Patil.
Congress-NCP leaders admitted that they were found on the back foot on the development plank. “Good monsoons coupled with the success of Jalyukta Shivar projects did not provide adequate fodder to target the ruling BJP on farmers’ problems,” said a leader.
Instead, after initial flip flop, they realised it was better to exploit the unrest among people on demonestisation in semi-urban and rural areas, he added.
According to BJP poll managers, post demonetisation Fadnavis had been intertwining the BJP’s development projects with the emotive plank of nationalism. “Smart cities, AMRUT, solid waste management, agro-industries, digital transformation and education reforms were always talked in varying degrees across all rallies,” said a BJP leader. Yet, demonetisation remained the highlight of the campaigns.
On Saturday, at the three rallies held in Vidarbha, the CM sought 50 days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tackle the problems arising out of the demonetisation move. He said, “People should participate in the war against the cancer corruption to bring 50 years of golden era.”