Almost all municipal corporations, zilla parishads and at least half the gram panchayats in the state will go for elections in the next two years. And after its strong performance in the assembly elections, the BJP has now focussed its aim on improving the party’s position in terms of civic representatives.
A strong presence in the municipal bodies is key to a good show in the general elections for the legislative assembly and the Parliament, but the party currently stands only fourth in terms of members it has in civic bodies.
The Congress and the NCP have been leading the top 2 positions in terms of member representatives in the state. The BJP has marginally higher seats in the municipal corporations over the Shiv Sena, but it comes only fourth in terms of members in other civic bodies in urban and rural areas.
While chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will lead the BJP from the front, next month’s zilla parishad elections in the newly formed Palghar and Thane district, will provide the first litmus test. These elections will be followed by polls in Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli and Aurangabad municipal corporations.
“The next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections will be fought on civic body strength and not on Modi’s charisma. The drive to strengthen the party network at the booth level, ahead of the Lok Sabha election, was a part of the strategy, though we could only succeed by 35%,” said a party functionary.
“Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli and Aurangabad will go for civic elections next year followed by Thane and Mumbai in 2016 and 2017. Apart from it, 14,500 gram panchayats will elect their heads in the next six months, and it will prove to be the opportunity for Fadnavis to register political success in first year of his tenure as the CM,” a leader close to the CM said.
He also added that the move to induct NCP leader Ganesh Naik into party is with the intention of winning over the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, where Naik’s nephew Sagar is mayor.
The BJP leadership wants to build on its success in the Assembly elections and ‘mobilise resources’ as the main ruling party in the state. “The Congress and NCP have succeeded in capturing more than 60% of the state’s civic bodies using the power at the state level. The immediate challenge before us will be to win the most number of civic bodies,” the leader said.
“We firmly believe that a stronghold at the civic level helps the party in ruling at the state level. In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, about 85% of the civic bodies in urban and rural areas were brought under the party’s control in last 10 years with great success. Similarly, our next target in Maharashtra is the civic bodies. Strategies for their elections will be chalked out in the next one month,” party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said.
NCP spokesperson Atul Londhe also said the accessibility of party workers and elected representatives counts in civic elections. “Civic polls are fought on local issues such as ‘water-meter-gutter’ (the availability of water, electricity and a sewerage system). The anti-incumbency against state and Central government will play in our favour in civic elections over the next three years,” Londhe said.