With 80% of the municipal corporations and zilla parishads in Maharashtra headed for elections in the next two years, the beleaguered Congress is hoping to stage a come-back.
The party’s first test will be the Aurangabad civic polls, scheduled next month.
The appointment of former chief minster Ashok Chavan as the state chief of the party and Sanjay Nirupam as the head of the Mumbai unit has created enthusiasm among party workers. It is now hoping to retain the corporations it rules, if not win more.
More than 60% of the local government bodies in Maharashtra are controlled by the Congress and the NCP.
Apart from Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai and Vasai-Virar municipal corporations will face elections in the next two months, while 16 others will go to polls in early 2017.
In Aurangabad, Chavan’s home turf, Shiv Sena rules the civic body, with Congress in the second position. The Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which won an Assembly seat from the city, has emerged as a major challenge to the party.
“It will not be easy for us to retain seats in Aurangabad and Navi Mumbai. However, the BJP is facing outrage over its handling of the agrarian crisis. Cotton growers in Marathwada are upset over the low price for their produce. We are banking on the anti-government sentiment,” said a senior Congress leader.
Former Congress chief Manikrao Thakre dismissed the MIM threat. “We have fixed responsibilities at the local level and are sure of success under Chavan. I am not worried about division of votes, as people with a secular set of mind always prefer the Congress.”