Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Devendra Fadnavis/Uddhavji Thackeray)
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With Civic Polls Set to Be Held in Mumbai, Will Sena-BJP Go Solo?

After Uttar Pradesh and four other states, election season has kicked off in Mumbai and Pune as well. The state election commission announced in a press conference on Wednesday that elections to 10 municipal corporations – including Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nashik and Nagpur – will be held on 21 February. Counting will be held on tow days later.

Elections will also be held to 25 zilla parishads across Maharashtra.

With state election commissioner JS Saharia making the announcements, the model code of conduct has kicked in with immediate effect.

Battle for Mumbai: BJP vs Shiv Sena?

The biggest fight will be for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), where the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has been in power for over 2 decades. But it’s still unclear if the two parties will fight the upcoming polls together.

The Shiv Sena is the senior partner in the alliance with 75 seats in the richest municipal body, while BJP has 31 corporators in the present House. But things changed in the 2014 Assembly elections. The alliance broke up and BJP won more seats than the Sena in Mumbai. BJP bagged 15 Assembly segments, while the Shiv Sena managed to win 14 Assembly segments in the state capital.

Based on the results of the Assembly polls in 2014 and municipality elections to some councils in 2016, BJP has asked for an equal share of seats to in the BMC elections. But Shiv Sena is unwilling to give these many seats.

Although Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has been publicly attacking the BJP for the last few months, his stand has suddenly softened in the last 24 hours.

The talks for seat sharing will begin today. Three leaders will participate from each side. The final decision will be taken by me and Devendra Fadnavis. The Shiv Sena-BJP coalition is the longest-surviving alliance. I’m not pessimistic about it. 
Uddhav Thackeray, Party Xhief, Shiv Sena

Mumbai chief of BJP Ashish Shelar, who has so far taken an anti-Shiv Sena stance, too toned down his language. This happened after a meeting of BJP leaders at the Chief Minister’s residence.

We are positive about the alliance. We have invited Shiv Sena for the talks. We want this alliance talks to get over soon.
Ashish Shelar, president, Mumbai BJP

The Congress and the NCP are most likely to contest the Mumbai polls separately.

Interesting fights in Pune, Nashik, Nagpur

The Pune civic body is ruled by the NCP. But in the 2014 Assembly elections, BJP swept the IT city, winning all eight seats. This has created a sense of anxiety in NCP and Congress ranks, who are now contemplating a pre-poll alliance. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is the main opposition in the present House, but it is in a bad shape ahead of the polls.

Nashik is the only city where the MNS is in power. But out of the 40 corporators elected in 2012, only 14 are with the party today. The condition of Raj Thackeray’s party is so woeful that it could even be reduced to single digits, say some experts.

The Nagpur Municipal Corporation is run by the BJP. This city is prestigious for the ruling party as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari are both elected from the city.

Municipal corporation elections will also be held in Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pimpri-Chichwad, Solapur, Akola and Amravati.

Can Congress Retain ZPs?

Elections to zilla parishads will also be held in 25 districts in two phases. The Congress and the NCP have traditionally done well in rural Maharashtra. Now, the BJP is trying hard to conquer the last bastion of the Grand Old Party after winning over the state’s semi-urban regions.

In the recently held municipality polls, BJP emerged as the number one party by winning 1,200 seats. It pushed the Congress (919) to the second position. The NCP was reduced to 788 seats and Shiv Sena to 359 seats.

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