WHEN the Panvel Municipal Corporation goes to polls on Wednesday — its first-ever election since becoming a municipality — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be hoping to post the biggest gains in an area that has for long been dominated by the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
A close contest is brewing in the region between the BJP and the PWP, with the Shiv Sena contesting the polls separately while the Congress and NCP are contesting in an alliance with the PWP. The BJP and its ally Republican Party of India (Athawale) is hoping to win around 60 of the total 78 seats.
The is the first election after the Panvel municipality was formed in October last year. The Panvel Municipal Corporation includes areas such as Panvel old city, regions under CIDCO such as Kharghar, Kamothe, Kalamboli, New Panvel, Taloja, and also 29 adjoining villages.
BJP leaders said the party’s campaign, including meetings addressed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, BJP ministers Prakash Mehta and Jaykumar Rawal and others, received a huge response from the people. “We focused on the development of the city. We have faces such as PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis, so the people of the area will give power to the BJP. They have seen the work of the Union and the state governments in the past three years,” said Prashant Thakur, local BJP legislator. A panel led by Thakur has controlled the Panvel civic council for the past 10 years.
However, the PWP, which has a strong base in the area, has run a campaigning focused on opposing the BJP and Thakur, highlighting his failure to carry out development. “There has been no development in the area despite BJP having power for the past 10 years. Water scarcity and garbage continue to be the biggest issues of the satellite town,” said Balaram Patil, PWP legislator. He added that the people are also suspicious about Thakur’s loyalty towards the BJP, claiming he changed parties to remain in power in the past.
Patil claimed the PWP, in alliance with the Congress and the NCP, would cross the 50-seat mark. “We have committed voters in the area, especially in the villages. Besides, the NCP also has a sizeable presence. So, we are hopeful of crossing 50 seats in the polls,” added Patil.
The Shiv Sena, which has negligible presence, has put up a spirited fight this time with rallies by Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Yuva Sena president Aaditya Thackeray. Sena leaders said they are not sure about how many seats they will win but expect their vote percentage to double. “We were not in the picture at all when the polls were announced. Now, everyone is wondering how many seats we will win. Our vote share will surely double in the polls,” said Adesh Bandekar, Sena’s party secretary and in-charge of Raigad district. The Sena is fighting the polls in alliance with MP Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS).
Another Sena leader said the party’s focus is on the 2019 Assembly polls. So, through this election, it is reaching out to the entire Assembly segment, he said.