No Note Ban Impact as BJP Wins Maharashtra ‘Mini Assembly’ Polls
In a 4-cornered fight, the ruling party won 50 out of 147 presidencies in the first phase of Municipal Council elections. (Picutre: Reuters)
In a 4-cornered fight, the ruling party won 50 out of 147 presidencies in the first phase of Municipal Council elections. (Picutre: Reuters)

No Note Ban Impact as BJP Wins Maharashtra ‘Mini Assembly’ Polls

On the day the ‘united’ Opposition held protests nationally against demonetisation, voters in Maharashtra have firmly backed the BJP. In a 4-cornered fight, the ruling party won 50 out of 147 presidencies in the first phase of Municipal Council elections held across the state.

Voters in the small towns had to vote twice – once to choose their corporators and then separately for their Council Presidents. BJP’s gamble of holding direct election for the president’s post has paid off as it won presidencies even at places where other parties got majorities in Councils.

BJP also has the most number of corporators as it won over 800 seats out of over 3,000 declared until Monday evening.

  • BJP: 52 Presidents (Majority in 31 Councils)
  • Shiv Sena: 25 Presidents (Majority in 16 Councils)
  • Congress: 23 Presidents (Majority in 20 Councils)
  • NCP: 19 Presidents (Majority in 17 Councils)
  • Others: 25 Presidents (Majority in 18 Councils)
  • 34 Councils are hung

Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked voters of Maharashtra and congratulated Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was the face of BJP’s campaign.

Demonetisation & Black Money

Although local polls are fought on local issues and are based on local equations, this time, the national issue of demonetisation was raised even in the smallest ward of the tiniest town. A state-level issue was also supposed to impact voting patterns – momentous Maratha rallies.

However, despite all this, BJP emerged unscathed. Even Congress had admitted that issue of demonetisation didn’t find much resonance with people.

People are angry with demonetisation, but they are not so angry that they will revolt against the government. And the issue of Maratha rallies has fizzled out. But let me point out that tremendous amount of black money was distributed in the form of old currency notes. Unless Narendra Modi decides to stop political misuse of cash, his fight against black money is a joke. 
Prithviraj Chavan, Congress Leader

Direct President, Direct Control

After 2011 polls, BJP was in fourth place in the corporator tally. Although the BJP won many of these towns in the 2014 Assembly election, after two years and in the backdrop of Maratha agitation, Fadnavis wasn’t sure of victory. So he decided to hold direct elections for the post of Council Presidents.

In the absence of strong ward-level network, Fadnavis thought that BJP can better pull off direct fights at town levels. He was right. For instance, the Congress won majority in Municipal Council of Karad, which is the hometown of former CM Prithviraj, but BJP has won the post of President. Similar situation is found in many towns.

BJP has managed to get a share of power in places where it does not traditionally do well. The Council President can spend 25 percent of funds without permission from the Council. These presidents will come under the Urban Development Ministry of the state government.

The Congress complains that the arrangement will hamper development as the party with majority and the president will lock horns on spending funds.

Shock to Bhujbal, Munde

Pankaja Munde lost the council in her hometown of Parali in Beed district. (Picture courtesy: thetypicalindian.com)
Pankaja Munde lost the council in her hometown of Parali in Beed district. (Picture courtesy: thetypicalindian.com)

Former Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who is currently in jail on charges of corruption lost his Nandgaon Municipal Council in Nashik district to Shiv Sena. In Parali, NCP’s Dhananjay Munde managed to defeat the BJP, which was led by his cousin and minister Panakaja Munde.

In Konkan, Congress leader Narayan Rane got relief as his party made major gains after the defeat in 2014 Assembly elections.

Generally state-level leaders don’t campaign extensively in these polls, but CM Fadnavis campaigned across the state. Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray stayed away from campaigning. Congress stalwarts like Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavana and Narayan Rane were holed up in their hometowns.

Polls, Polls and More Polls...

The elections for Municipal Councils in Maharashtra is held in four phases. The first and the biggest phase, which was spread out across all five regions of the state is now over. In this first phase, 164 municipal councils and Nagar Panchayats went to polls out of a total of 212.

Now the second phase will be held on 14 December, the third phase on 18 December and the final phase on 8 January 2017.

After these elections get over, 10 major municipal corporations, including Mumbai, Thane and Pune will go to polls in February 2017. Then Zilla Parishad elections will be held after March 2017. After getting a firm lead in the first phase of the first elections, the BJP is upbeat and likely to bargain hard with Shiv Sena for seat-sharing in the BMC polls.