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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Congress, BJP set for close fight during Maharashtra’s Nanded civic polls

The Congress is trying to retain the civic body it has ruled for 15 years

mumbai Updated: Oct 10, 2017 00:17 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Nanded is Congress’ state unit chief Ashok Chavan’s home turf.
Nanded is Congress’ state unit chief Ashok Chavan’s home turf.(HT File Photo)

There is likely to be a close contest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is trying to tame state Congress chief Ashok Chavan on his home turf in Nanded ahead of the civic polls slated for Wednesday.

The Congress, for its part, is trying to retain the civic body it has ruled for 15 years.The BJP won 12 of the 17 civic bodies for which polls were held this year, expanding its footprint over the state’s urban areas at the cost of the Opposition and its ally, the Shiv Sena.

The fight for 81-seat Nanded Waghala civic body is likely to be close, with both the parties roping in key leaders to campaign.

A loss would hurt the Congress badly as it lost its other citadel in the in neighbouring Latur district, which was earlier controlled by the late Vilasrao Deshmukh’s family.

The Congress has 41 sitting corporators supported by 10 Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) members in the Nanded civic body. The Shiv Sena has 14 corporators, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has 11. The BJP has two.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi began a campaign days before the polls were announced. All key leaders including Prithviraj Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivraj Patil participated.

On the other hand, a dozen BJP ministers, including Pankaja Munde, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Rajkumar Badole, Dilip Kamble, were deployed for the party’s campaign.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis held two meetings on Monday.

Ahead of the polls, the BJP poached more than 15 sitting Congress and Shiv Sena corporators and are counting on them to win the civic body. Among those who were poached are Shiv Sena district president and leader of Opposition in the civic body. The Congress managed to woo nine AIMIM corporators and believes that most of them will win, helping the party march towards the half-way mark.

The Congress has the advantage of gaining back the Muslim voters that had shifted, to some extent, to the AIMIM in 2012, while the BJP will have to deal with a division of votes, owing to strong Shiv Sena candidates in some wards. Muslim voters dominate more than 25 wards.

“The BJP is fighting against the Congress, and its ruling partner, the Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena leaders have not taken kindly to MLA Pratap Chikalikar defecting to the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray vociferously attacked the BJP on various issues. The BJP has also attacked the Shiv Sena, which will help Congress keep its votes intact,” a Sena minister said.

Responding to the scathing attack by Thackeray during his rally in Nanded on Sunday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis alleged that the Shiv Sena is contesting as the Congress ‘team B’. “The Shiv Sena is acting as if their leader in Nanded is Ashok Chavan,” Fadnavis said. He also held Chavan responsible for the city’s poor development.

Chavan took a dig at Fadnavis by alleging that his government was interested in acquiring agricultural land to benefit a few industrialists.