The Mumbai municipal corporation, the country’s richest civic body with an annual budget of more than Rs 21,000 crore, goes to polls on Thursday after a shrill build-up.
The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine is hoping to dislodge the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance which is ruling the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) since 1996.
The standalone presence of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) adds an edgy element to the contest, especially in context of chief Raj Thackeray’s political tussle with cousin and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.
This is the first time that the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP, ruling Maharashtra for the last 12 years, have joined hands for the Mumbai civic polls.
But the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance — looking to extend its 16-year run in the BMC — has managed to woo old Congress-NCP associate Republican Party of India (RPI) led by Ramdas Athavale. The RPI has a substantial Dalit following in the city.
“We have had a bad experience with the Congress-NCP alliance, which never gave us our due share. It was time that we formed an alliance with people who know how to give us our due,” said Athavale.
The MNS, which has based its politics on the empowerment of the sons of the soil, has a substantial support base amongst the city’s Mahrashtrians and is expected to add the triangular edge to the contest. The population of Marathi-speaking residents in Mumbai has slipped over the years and stands at about 40% now.
The empowerment of Mahrashtrians is an emotional poll plank for the Shiv Sena too.
Corruption in the BMC and lack of infrastructure in the country’s commercial also figured in electionering. Nine other civic bodies across Maharashtra also go polls simultaneously.