As the poll battle for Mumbai and other civic bodies heats up over the next 10 days, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will hold nearly 50 rallies across the state.
He will address 10 rallies in the megapolis, hammering home his party’s agenda of transparency and development for the country’s richest civic body. He is the lone star campaigner for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this season, with only Union minister Nitin Gadkari expected to arrive from Delhi for a couple of rallies.
At stake is not just control of the country’s financial capital, but also 25 district councils that govern nearly 75% of the rural population.
The polls — dubbed ‘mini assembly elections’ — are being seen as a referendum on the Fadnavis government and will give the public an idea of the strength of the four major parties ahead of the 2019 polls.
“I hold nearly six rallies daily. I will address 10 in Mumbai,” said Fadnavis.
With the split in the saffron alliance, the stakes have been raised, but Fadnavis is confident of his party emerging as numerous uno in the district councils, as well as in the municipal corporations.
In contrast, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is focussing only on his party’s stronghold, Mumbai, where he will hold as many as 18 rallies. If one goes by the party’s performance in 2012 in these local bodies, it ranks a poor fourth.
The BJP plans to increase the tempo of its campaign in Mumbai next week, with every Fadnavis-led rally revealing a new talking point — albeit on the same issue of corruption in the civic body — and a promise to transform the functioning of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
“Isn’t this the single biggest issue in Mumbai ? Corruption, which leads to bad roads and poor civic amenities, is an issue that brings together the rich and the poor. It affects the poor even more. We have set an agenda and the Shiv Sena is now following it,” said a senior BJP leader.
On Tuesday, Fadnavis will hold two rallies in Marathi heartland of Girgaon and at Prabhadevi, right opposite the office of the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana.
The Prabhadevi-Dadar, Lalbaug and Parel belt has been home to the original ‘Marathi manoos’ for decades and is considered to be the Shiv Sena’s stronghold.
“Doesn’t the Marathi manoos want development ? Of course he does,” said Fadnavis.
Despite the ongoing bitterness between the saffron allies and a split in the alliance, there is a strong likelihood that the parties may have to come together for a post-poll tie-up.