Maharashtra civic polls 2018: All eyes are on the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP even as polling is taking palce for the 78-member Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation (SMKMC) and the Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC) today. The counting will be held on August 3 and results are scheduled to be out on the same day. Political equations at the local level are likely to throw up surprises as well as leaders. Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation (SMKMC) has 78 seats and Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC) is a 75-member civic on Wednesday.
In a surprising move, The BJP led by Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, has joined hands with Shiv Sena leader Sureshdada Jain’s local front, the Khandesh Vikas Aghadi (KVA) in Jalgaon. Till Mahajan became a Cabinet minister in 2014, senior BJP leader and former Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse used to call the shots in politics of Jalgaon, North Maharashtra, and was seen as a key rival of Jain, a local heavyweight. Jain was a minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government (1995-99) and his local front KVA currently rules the JMC. After hectic parleys, the Shiv Sena and Jain decided to contest the 2018 civic body election on the Shiv Sena’s official symbol of “bow and arrow”. Mahajan, after getting charge of the civic body election, forged an alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena for the JMC election.
“Had Khadse been in charge, he would have never accepted such a deal, because compared to the Sena, the BJP is getting less number of seats to contest in the 75-member house,” a senior BJP official was quoted as saying by PTI. “But times have changed. If the Sena-BJP combine wins the civic body, it will strengthen Mahajans position in the party. Mahajan has also made truce with sitting BJP MLA Suresh Bhole (elected from Jalgaon city constituency),” said the official. BJP is also reportedly grooming an alternative to Khadse, considered the party’s face in North Maharashtra for several years.
The election to the Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation will be a test for the local BJP leaders and the party’s appeal among voters in Western Maharashtra which is considered as a traditional stronghold of the NCP and the Congress. The BJP has increased its voter base in the Satara-Sangli-Kolhapur belt, but its electoral successes have been few. Today’s election is an opportunity for the BJP to expand its base in the belt after it won a few seats in the neighbouring Kolhapur Municipal Corporation in 2015. If the BJP wins the SMKMC, it would be its first civic victory in the sugar belt.
In 2008, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP had joined hands with local BJP leaders and its ally to snatch power from the Congress in the civic corporation. In 2013, the Congress won it back after a bitter fight with the NCP, whose local face is its senior leader Jayant Patil, a former minister. Now both the Congress and the NCP have joined hands to counter the BJP, which is heading its first government in the state. The polls to these civic bodies will also test the popularity of local leaders of other prominent parties.