The third phase of the local body elections in Maharashtra for 19 municipal councils and two nagar panchayats in the Aurangabad, Nanded, Gadchiroli and Bhandara districts on Sunday saw an overall turnout of 72.76% among the 5.16 lakh registered voters.
Voting to these local bodies, with a majority of them being Congress’ strongholds, began at 7.30am and went on till 5.30 pm. The votes will be counted on Monday from 10am onwards.
A total of 1,947 candidates were in the fray for 409 seats across the local bodies. Like in the first two phases, the council presidents are also being elected directly by the people, as per information from the State Election Commission (SEC). There are 111 candidates for the 19 president posts.
The local bodies where polling took place included Kannad, Paithan, Gangapur and Khultabad in Aurangabad, with the Congress currently having a majority in three of the four councils. From Nanded, the councils and nagar panchayats going to polls included Dharmabad, Umri, Hadgaon, Mukhed, Biloli, Kandhar, Kundalwadi, Mudkhed, Deglur, Ardhapur and Mahur. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have a majority in four of these local bodies, while the former controls a larger share of the district in terms of the number of seats.
From Bhandara, the Pavni, Bhandara and Tumsar councils along with the newly-formed nagar panchayat of Sakori went to the polls.
The NCP has 30 of the existing 72 seats across the local bodies, with a majority in the Bhandara and Tumsar councils, while the Shiv Sena controls the Pavni municipal council.
The third phase also included voting to two municipal councils in the Vidarbha region, traditionally a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold, in the Gadchiroli district — Gadchiroli and Desaiganj.
The Desaiganj council polls have been mired in controversy with Mahadev Jankar, a cabinet minister in the BJP-led state government, battling charges of attempting to pressurise an election officer to give a favourable symbol to his candidate in Desaiganj. The returning officer has registered a criminal case against Jankar, founder and president of BJP ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, while the minister continues to deny allegations.
“Following the case, the election to ward number 9-B in the Desaiganj municipal council was scrapped. Election to the seat will now take place on January 22, 2017, as per the revised schedule,” an SEC official said.
He added, election to the Vaijapur municipal council were also scheduled to be held on Sunday, but had to be postponed because of a court-mandated stay.
So far, the BJP swept the first two phases. Notwithstanding the opposition’s barbs over alleged corruption and demonetisation, the BJP stamped its popularity with a clear lead in the first phase of elections for 147 municipal councils and 18 nagar panchayats.
It also made deep inroads into the bastions of the Congress and NCP in the second phase of polls to 14 municipal councils in Pune and Latur, wining the maximum number of council president posts and being a close second to the NCP in terms of the number of member seats.
A total of 212 municipal councils and nagar panchayats across the state are to go to polls in four phases. The polls are said to give an insight into whether the ruling BJP still holds sway among the public, and if the Congress and NCP, reduced to bits during the 2014 Lok Sabha and state assembly elections, are still popular in Maharashtra’s semi-urban centres.
The last phase of the local polls is scheduled on January 8.