After more than a week full of fierce and hostile campaigning by the Shiv Sena and BJP for control of the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), people exercised their franchise on Sunday.
The voter turnout, however, was low at 47% — 2% lower than in 2010 — despite the canvassing by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
The results will be out on Monday and are likely to change the power dynamics at the state level between the allies, who contested separately. Traditionally, a low turnout favours the incumbent — in this case, the Sena that was the larger party in the KDMC. The polls to the 122-ward civic body are also a question of prestige, as the Sena and BJP had ruled the civic body together since its inception in 1995.
Both parties also consider this the dress rehearsal for the Mumbai civic body polls in 2017.
After instances of violent attacks by political workers in the run-up to the polls, Sunday also saw its own share of controversies. In Dombivli, there was a tussle between workers of various parties, with a political activist brandishing a sword.
The BJP complained their workers were kidnapped and assaulted by the MNS. BJP legislator Ravindra Chavan said MNS corporator Manda Patil was behind the incident. Manda Patil, however, denied any role in the episode.
“It was in fact the BJP that started the fight,” Patil said.
The day also saw at least 150 cases of bogus voting registered in Kalyan and Dombivli. Four people were arrested and four others were detained at two different places with fake voting cards.
As a preventive measure, the police had prohibited senior Sena and BJP leaders, including guardian minister Eknath Shinde, from entering the KDMC jurisdiction.
The Kolhapur civic body also went to polls on Sunday. Here, an impressive 70% came out to vote. Sena and BJP are fighting independently here too to wrest the local civic body from the incumbent Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
While both polls will be a test of the popularity of the Sena and BJP, the KDMC polls are being held as the real litmus test, largely owing to its proximity to Mumbai, and also because that region is considered a Sena citadel.
The last stages of campaigning last week had got bitter, with Thackeray even threatening to walk out of the state government if the BJP did not curb its ‘arrogance’.
As the polls are the first after Fadnavis became CM, it is said to be a crucial indicator of his popularity too.