The BJP’s popularity in Maharashtra’s urban belts will be put to test on Monday when results of the polls for municipalities in Kalyan-Dombivali and Kolhapur are announced. Voting for both civic bodies was held on Sunday. Elections for both the municipalities are also being billed as a battleground between allies BJP and the Shiv Sena, who are pitted against each other at both the places.
The Sena has always held the edge in Kalyan-Dombivali. It came to power five years ago winning 31 out of the 122 seats. While the Raj Thackeray-led MNS had come second with 27 seats last time. Political analysts, however, are pitting BJP against Sena for the battle this time around.
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Taking place a year after the BJP came to power in the state, the Kalyan-Dombivali polls were also fought by the Shiv Sena and the BJP as the “litmus test” before the crucial election for the cash-rich Brihanmumbai municipal corporation next year.
Even though there was aggressive campaigning by both the parties, voters in Kalyan-Dombivali, however, did not seem enthused. According to estimates put out by the Election Commission at the time of filing this copy, the polls in Kalyan-Dombivli witnessed an average 47 per cent turnout.
In contrast, Kolhapur saw an encouraging turnout with close to 72 per cent voters exercising their rights. The race is for 122 seats in Kalyan-Dombivali and 81 seats in Kolhapur. While the Congress had emerged as the single largest party in Kolhapur in the last civic election, the BJP is hoping that its pre-poll tie up with local outfit TaraRani group will turn fortunes in its favour this time. Incidentally, the Shiv Sena has six MLAs from Kolhapur district, while the BJP and the NCP have two each. The BJP has run an election campaign at both the places with an eye at expanding its base in urban belts, where the Shiv Sena has traditionally held sway over the ally.
According to election commission officials, voting was largely peaceful across both the civic bodies. In Kalyan-Dombivali, however, stray incidences of violence were reported. According to police officials, a BJP party worker, Nitin Palan, was attacked with a sword-like weapon and had to be admitted to the hospital.
Shivaji Dhumal, senior inspector, Tilak Nagar, said, “The injuries that Palan sustained are not serious in nature. He is currently getting medical treatment.” He added, “At this stage, it is not clear who was behind the attack and an FIR may be registered at a later stage.”
A scuffle between the BJP and MNS party workers also ensued near Dombivali’s Manjunath school. Local election officials also lodged cases against some senior politicians for code of conduct violation. Besides these two civic bodies, polls were also held for three municipal council and 81 Nagar Panchayats, which witnessed an average 81 per cent polling, according to officials.
In rural belts, elections were held across 1,887 Gram Panchayats in various districts. These, according to election officials, witnessed an average 83 per cent voting.
Meanwhile, people from 25 out of the 27 villages who were recently included in the Kalyan-Dombivali electorate came out in good numbers to exercise their right. Election officials said there was an average 60 per cent voting in these villages.
Political analysts said that the turnout in these parts could lend the Shiv Sena an advantage since the BJP had backed their exclusion ahead of the polls.