The stakes are high for the BJP in the February 16 Nagpur Municipal Corporation elections. And the outcome would be crucial not just for BJP — which is striving to retain its hold on the civic body — but equally important for the party’s national President Nitin Gadkari.
Many in the city term it an acid test for Gadkari who has expressed his desire to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the city. The outcome of the NMC elections is crucial for Gadkari as it will show the extent of his political influence he wields in his home city that also houses the headquarters of his mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Secondly, this will be a semi-final of sorts for Gadkari ahead of the parliamentary elections - especially after taking over the reins of the saffron.
The NMC poll result will also hold a lot of significance for AICC general secretary and Lok Sabha member from Nagpur Vilas Muttemwar, who is perturbed over Gadkari’s aspirations to contest the 2014 general elections. Muttemwar already suffered a major setback when the BJP wrested four out of six Assembly seats from Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency in the last state elections.
Sensing the high stakes involved, Muttemwar and Gadkari, were themselves actively involved in the ticket distribution. Both are believed to have taken every care so as not to jeopardize their 2014 electoral aspirations.
To add to Gadkari’s worries, he was facing rebellion from within a ‘disciplined’ party, over ticket distribution. The party suspended its six sitting corporators - Subhash Aparajit, Paresh Joshi, Pramod Chilkle, Manoj Chafle, Prabhakar Dhawde and Rekha Ghime for entering the poll fray against party’s official candidates. To get things in order in his home turn, Gadkari swiftly wounded up his campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Punjab, and returned to the city to campaign for the party candidates.
Moreover, all is not well with the local BJP following a poll understanding with RPI (Athawale) that hardly has any influence in the city. The city has a considerable clout of another RPI faction of Jogendra Kawade who struck an alliance with the Congress-NCP.
Desperation within the BJP to retain its hold on the civic body is evident after it nominated Anil Dhawde, a hardcore criminal facing serious charges including murders, rape, extortion charges, etc, for the NMC polls. This had led to the BJP legislator, Devendra Fadnavis, who was disturbed over the nomination of Dhawde, for not campaigning the tainted BJP candidate during the elections.
Congress is no different. Many in the party list also have a criminal past.
Jaiprakash Gupta, the president of city Congress, claimed that the Congress-NCP combine would wrest the civic body from the BJP as the saffron party was exposed for its wanton corruption in the corporation, particularly the 24X7 water supply scheme and awarding the city bus contract to a private player.
"The BJP is now at the receiving end. The way the national president of a party (Gadkari) is taking interest of a civic body elections, it is very obvious that we are sure to win the battle," Gupta added.
However, Anil Sole, Nagpur BJP president, dismissed charges of corruption in the civic body and said that it was a blatant allegation made by the opposition. "We are going to retain the civic body and this is amply clear from the unopposed election of party’s woman candidate Vishakha Maind. The The Congress could not even get a candidate from the constituency," he pointed out.
The Congress-NCP combine could not able to field a candidate from Deekshabhoomi ward in west Nagpur area till the last date of the filing of nomination that led to the elections of Maind of BJP. Surprisingly, the AICC general secretary and Lok Sabha member from Nagpur, Vilas Muttemwar and the AICC secretary and Rajya Sabha member, Avinash Pande are the voters of Deekshabhommi ward while the union minister Mukul Wasnik and the city Congress chief Jaiprakash Gupta resides in the neighbouring VNIT ward.
"If Muttemwar fails to find a suitable contestant from a ward where he himself lives, one can understand the state of affairs of Nagpur Congress," Sole quipped.
Total seats: 136
NMC elections – 2012
Total Seats: 145
RPI (A): 05
Lok Manch: 09
RPI (K): 02