Home India Politics Millions vote in crucial Maharashtra civic elections

Millions vote in crucial Maharashtra civic elections

Mumbai, (IANS): Millions of voters exercised their franchise on Tuesday in Maharashtra to elect members of 10 major civic bodies, including India’s largest and richest civic body BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) where many Bollywood celebrities cast their votes.

The elections to 11 Zila Parishads and 118 Panchayat Samitis also are widely seen as a referendum on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The results will be out on Thursday.

At close of balloting in the evening, an estimated 55 per cent of Mumbai’s 9.2 million (92 lakh) electorate had voted, making it the highest turnout for any elections since 1991.

The country’s commercial capital has generally recorded a dismal voter turnout. In 2012, it notched just 44.7 per cent voting.

The total average voting across the municipal corporations in the state was 56 per cent, and 69 per cent for Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis, state Election Commissioner J.S. Saharia said here late on Tuesday.

The encouraging turnout prompted Fadnavis to tweet: “Thank you Mumbai for the record voting percentage and… for participating in festival of democracy!”

Controlled by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for four terms, the BMC has a budget of Rs 37,052 crore for 2016-17 fiscal, catering to a population of around 18.30 million.

In comparison, neighbouring Goa’s budget last year was around Rs 14,700 crore.

Voting was also conducted in other nine civic bodies (besides Mumbai) — Thane, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Amravati, Akola and Nagpur.

This is the first time the fate of a state government hinges on the outcome of a municipal election, given the bitterness between the BJP and Shiv Sena in the run-up to the polls.

An aggressive Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray has put the BJP government “on notice period” and said he would decide whether to continue the state-level alliance after the results.

Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar has ruled out support in such an eventuality and predicted mid-term assembly polls.

For the BJP, the election is a virtual midterm report card on its much-bandied issue of transparency and clean governance.

A generous dose of glamour, glitz and power play was visible in Mumbai at the 7,304 booths to elect 227 BMC corporators from among 2,275 candidates.

Early voters included Tina Ambani, wife of industrialist Anil Ambani, Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar, Sharad Pawar, his daughter Supriya Pawar, nephew Ajit Pawar, Uddhav and wife Rashmi Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj and wife Sharmila Thackeray and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, former cricketer Sandeep Patil and others.

Chief Minister Fadnavis and his wife Amruta voted in Nagpur. So did Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Among the Bollywood personalities who voted — and asked everyone to vote too — were Rekha, Hema Malini, Prem Chopra, Kamini Kaushal, Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Kiran Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, John Abraham, Vivek Oberoi, Arshad Warsi and Shreyas Talpade, renowned poet Gulzar and filmmaker Subhash Ghai.

Several tele serial actors and Marathi film stars too exercised their franchise.

BJP state spokesperson Shania N.C. and actor Varun Dhawan could not vote as their names were found missing from the voter lists.

As many as 3.77 crore voters sealed the fate of 17,331 candidates for 5,512 seats, including 1,268 in 10 municipal corporations, 2,956 in 11 Zila Parishads and 1,288 seats in 118 Panchayat Samitis in the second and final phase of the polling.