MUMBAI: Maharashtra Vikas Agadi (MVA), a three-state governing body, has held elections for 14,000 Gram Panchayats or Gram Councils in the two months since it came to power. The results show that the MVA has won more seats than the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but still has a strong presence in the state. In the coming days, elections will be declared for five civic bodies, including three in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and three in Rangabad, the results of which will reflect the reaction of city dwellers to the MVA and the BJP.
In the recent Gram Panchayat elections, the BJP and the Shiv Sena did well (the State Election Commission has not yet officially declared the results). In the next few days, five municipal corporations and two district councils are going to the polls, which is expected to be another political experiment for political parties. If the Panchayat results are any indication, there is no other option but to join hands with the three ruling parties who fought separately in the elections. While almost all the four major parties claim to have won the most panchayats, the BJP and Sena have won the majority of them.
On the other hand, between the three ruling parties, the Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress has won 60% of the panchayats. This reaffirms the fact that they won more seats, as they fought in the November assembly elections. Elections for five major municipal corporations and two district councils are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Of the three corporations, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli and Vasai-Virar are from MMR, while the other two corporations are Rangabad in central Maharashtra and Kolhapur in western Maharashtra. The Sena and the BJP are in power in KDMC and Navi Mumbai respectively. Vasai-Virar is controlled by BahujanVikas Agadi, led by MLA Hitendra Thakur. The city of Kolhapur was ruled by the Congress while Rangabad was ruled by the army for many years. In Vidarbha, the Bhandara and Gondia district councils of the Congress and the NCP, respectively, are expected to go to the polls simultaneously.
During the five years of rule in Maharashtra till October 2019, the BJP became the top party in almost all the local bodies. The 27 municipal corporations have 1,099 seats out of a total of 2,736 seats. In 34 district councils, 526 out of 2,000 have won 526 in the last five years. The party has 1,123 members in 4,000 seats in 351 panchayat committees. In terms of individual numbers, all the three ruling parties are lagging behind the BJP in these local bodies. The biggest challenge facing the saffron is to maintain its position at the local level.
BJP vice-president Madhav Bhandari has said that his party will retain its top position in the forthcoming local body elections despite the good performance of the ruling parties. The ruling parties failed to take this advantage because the voters of the rural parties allowed us in the panchayat elections. It is true that we lost two of our traditional seats in the council elections, but we learned a lesson from them and focused on rural institutions, going for course correction and winning most of them. Similarly, our aim is to get as many urban and rural local bodies as possible to go to the polls in the near future. Even if the ruling parties fight together, there will be no change.
The ruling parties always enjoy one aspect during local self-government elections for various reasons. First, the government machinery is in your interest, and within five years the BJP has used it mercilessly. Voters believe that development funds for civic organizations are more likely to be elected if the ruling parties are elected to local bodies. In the recent council elections, educational institutions in western Maharashtra responded very well when we called meetings seeking votes from teachers and constituencies. During the BJP rule, they will not even attend our meetings, ”said a senior Congress leader.
Now, the Minority Development Minister and NCP leader, said, “The BJP is lying about its performance in the panchayat elections and the MVA has won the most Gram Panchayats. We will continue this trend even in the upcoming local government elections. This is part of our strategy because fighting where the BJP is weak will help the opposition, ”he said.
The Congress leader said that all the three parties have decided to contest in the local bodies under the leadership of a strong partner. "As in Kolhapur, we will fight alone because there is a strong base there, and in Navi Mumbai, we will fight under the leadership of the ruling coalition forces," he said.
The leader said the BJP would win seats in the local bodies as well as in the panchayats, bringing the ruling parties closer together to take the government forward. It does not matter whether the BJP is one or two in the rural elections. It is important to note that they still have significant support among rural voters. Therefore, we have to stand together to confront them, ”said the NCP senior minister.
Prakash Pawar, a political analyst from western Maharashtra, said it would be a challenge for the BJP to retain power in local bodies. The BJP claims to have won the most panchayats, but they are not in proportion to the number of assembly seats. In the case of MLAs in the Assembly, it is twice as many as the Sena and the NCP, but not twice as many panchayats. The party has suffered losses since severing ties with the army last year, but the latter has benefited.
They will benefit if the three ruling parties fight together, but the question is whether they have the potential to do so without twisting each other's muscles, ”he said. Officials said other administrative steps, such as delimitation of wards and drawing up of reservations, had already been completed and elections would be held as soon as the voter list was revised. Elections to these corporations and ZDs were supposed to take place last year, but were delayed due to an epidemic.