Despite voter awareness campaigns, less than half of the city turned out to vote in the elections to the 227 wards of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), one of the 10 corporations in Maharashtra which went to the polls on Thursday. According to preliminary estimates by the State Election Commission, 46 per cent of the 10,279,377 voters exercised their franchise in Greater Mumbai.

Overall 54 per cent of the electors voted in the Statewide elections, which went off peacefully, barring some stray incidents, officials said.

The results will be declared on Friday.

In Mumbai, the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition is facing the combined might of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, which came together for the first time to keep the secular vote intact.

Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena hopes to increase its tally of seven seats it won in 2007. It has fielded 226 candidates.

In 2002, the voting percentage for the city was 43.25, while in 2007 it was 46. A lower voter turnout in the past helped the saffron combine, this time boosted by a new ally in Ramdas Athavale's faction of the Republican Party of India.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has made the poll battle a prestige issue and said the Sena will become irrelevant after the elections. However, he fears a hung House in Greater Mumbai, and also transfer of Dalit votes to the Sena.

MNS impact

The MNS could affect the Sena's chances, cutting into the Marathi vote base as it did in the 2009 polls to the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly.

On Thursday, right from the posh South Mumbai to other parts across the city, voting was dull, with only seven per cent recorded in the first two hours. It picked up only in the last two hours. Till 3.30 p.m., the city recorded 34.93 per cent vote.

For the first time, 50 per cent reservation has been provided for women in the corporation polls. Sixty per cent of the candidates fielded by the Sena and the NCP in the city are women.

The Congress is contesting 169 seats and the NCP, 58. The Congress has allied with Jogendra Kawade of the People's Republican Party, after Mr. Athavale went to the Sena. The Shiv Sena is contesting 135 seats, the BJP 63 and Mr. Athavale's party 29, a few of which have been given to the Dalit Panthers led by Namdeo Dhasal.

The Samajwadi Party, which won eight seats in 2007, has fielded 119 candidates, while the Bahujan Samaj Party, which won one seat, has 140 candidates. In 2007, the Congress won 71 seats and the NCP 14; the BJP 28 and the Sena 84. The RPI (all factions) won 3.

Elections were also held in Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Solapur, Nasik, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.