New front candidate wins Malegaon mayoral polls


Malegaon (Maharashtra) : Mayoral elections in the sensitive power-loom town of Malegaon Friday saw a newly created political outfit Teesra Mahaaj (third front) winning the post of mayor while the Congress won the deputy mayor's post.

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Najmuddin Sheikh Gulsher of the Mahaaj was elected mayor of the Malegaon Municipal Corporation and Sakharam Ghodke of the Congress deputy mayor.

Sheikh polled 50 of the 72 votes while his Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) rival Rafique Qureishi got a mere 13, even as seven Shiv Sena councillors and a lone member of Samajwadi Party staged a walkout and an Independent candidate abstained.

Doing a tad better, Ghodke polled 51 votes as against 13 garnered by his JD-S rival Shan-e-Hind, daughter of former JD-S MLA Nihal Ahmed.

The peace in this town in western Maharashtra was shattered by powerful bomb blasts eight months ago.

For the May 27 polls, the Mahaaj leader campaigned stridently against both Congress and Janata Dal-Secular for indulging in corruption and communal politics while neglecting development, reaping a harvest of 27 seats for the mahaaj with the two parties trailing behind respectively with 15 and 12 seats.

Riding a crest of popular support, Mufti then stunned everybody by saying he won't mind taking support of the militant Hindu party Shiv Sena provided it backed up his "no politics, only development" principle in the civic governance and pledged to bury communal passions.

While the Shiv Sena readily agreed to work out an arrangement, the Muslim religious body Jamiat-ul-Ulemma pressurised the cleric against allying with the Hindu "communal" party.

The Mufti was under pressure too from the Ahmednagar-based Indian Muslim Congress Party (IMCP) whose registration number and AB forms (election candidature forms) his mahaaj had used – the IMCP leaders had threatened to issue a whip against mahaaj councillors if they took Shiv Sena's support.

Buckling under the pressure, Mufti Mohammed Ismail spurned the Shiv Sena and agreed to ally with the Congress, sealing the deal with Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in Mumbai last Monday.

But he changed his stance yet again the next day when thousands of his supporters protested for betraying the popular mandate against the Congress and announced that the alliance was off and that the mahaaj councillors would sit in the opposition.

The final twist came Thursday night with the Congress leaders convincing him and his supporters that a speedy development of the backward town was possible only with the help of the Congress that was ruling both in the state and at the centre.