January 15, 2021 7:33:37 pm
Polling in 14,234 gram panchayats across 34 districts of Maharashtra took place on Friday. The polling, which continued from 7.30am to 5.30pm all over, ended at 3pm in two naxal-hit districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia.
The elections were by and large peaceful with Covid-19 protocols in place. The counting will take place on January 18.
There are a total of 27,920 gram panchayats in Maharashtra. Therefore, today’s elections, which account for 50 per cent of gram panchayats, are significant as it took place a year after the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance assumed office in the state, relegating the BJP to the Opposition.
Although gram panchayats are not contested on party symbols, strong political undercurrents were on play as political parties tried their best to build clout at the grassroots level.
A village with more than 500 residents can form a gram panchayat. Considered the third tier of governance, gram panchayat elections are held once in every five years. The 14,234 gram panchayats constitute a total of 1,24,810 seats. Over two lakh candidates contested the polls this time.
State election commissioner UPS Madan said, “In 20,000 odd seats, there were no contest and candidates were declared elected unopposed.”
At least 14 villages in Thane boycotted the elections as residents demanded their villages to be included in the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Therefore, elections in five gram panchayats could not be held. The first half of the poll saw technical glitches in machines leading to delay of an hour in a few booths.
On Wednesday, the Election Commission cancelled polls to Umrane and Khondamali gram panchayats in Nashik and Nandurbar districts over complaints about auction of posts of sarpanch and members of local bodies.
Social reformer Anna Hazare cast his vote in his native village Ralegansiddhi in Ahmednagar district. In a clear departure from politics of consensus, the village has been witnessing contests for past two elections.
Polling in Hiwrebazar village, which took place after 30 years, was another highlight this time. The villagers enthusiastically made a beeline to exercise their franchise since morning.
Congress chief spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “The gram panchayat polls will help the Congress regain its hold at the grassroots level. The BJP, which is fighting for survival, will be wiped out.”
Unlike the recently contested graduates’ and teachers’ constituencies council polls, the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena contested separately this time. The results, therefore, will be a litmus test for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his party. In 2015, the BJP, under the leadership of then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had a success rate of over 50 per cent in gram panchayat and sarpanch elections.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “The party’s support base at the grassroots level will remain intact.”
However, a party general secretary said, “Generally, the results of gram panchayat elections favour the ruling party as voters depend on government funds for development in their respective villages. The BJP’s target was to keep its rural base intact. What needs to be seen is whether the Sena can have an edge over the Congress and the NCP.”
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