The Shiv Sena appeared set to retain power in the country’s richest civic body while its uneasy partner, the BJP, could come up a close second, trends from counting till midday Thursday showed. (LIVE UPDATES)
The BJP, however, appeared set to make big gains in 10 other civic bodies, according to trends from two hours into the counting that began around 10am.
While Shiv Sena is en route to emerging as the largest party in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, its estranged saffron ally is leading in Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Amravati. The Congress is leading in Akola, but is likely to lose power in Solapur and Amravati. Ulhasnagar, meanwhile, is gripped in a close contest between the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the NCP.
The BJP’s plan to win Mumbai does not seem to be materialising, with the Sena managing to retain its hold on the Marathi voter base. While the Uddhav Thackeray-led party gained in 80 seats to the BJP’s 40, the Congress seemed likely to secure a poor third position with just about 10 seats.
Over two hours after counting began at 10 am, the BJP surged ahead in Pune’s 41 seats – leaving the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with 19 and the Congress with a paltry 10. However, the party didn’t seem to be doing as well in neighboring Pimpri-Chinchwad – considered to be a stronghold of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
The ongoing elections could spell curtains for Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in Nashik, with the BJP fast emerging as the largest party in the city. The MNS had held sway over the region for the last five years.
In Thane, the Shiv Sena is leading in 14 of the 33 wards where counting is in progress. The BJP and NCP are trailing with six and five seats respectively.
In Nashik, the BJP was far ahead of rivals Shiv Sena and NCP – leading in as many as 22 seats. The BJP seemed set to take over the Solapur civic body, controlled by senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde for over three decades, by taking an 18-seat lead. The Shiv Sena seemed likely to emerge as the second-largest party in the region.
With the BJP conducting a high-decibel campaign in the backdrop of its success in the 2014 state assembly election, it has become crucial for the NCP to win the civic body elections in Pune – its last bastion in urban Maharashtra. The Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations, with a total budget of Rs 9,200 crore, are currently held by the NCP.