Other States

BJP bets big on Maharashtra civic polls in February

At a recent closed-door meeting of the corporators and the MLAs to strategise about the upcoming Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) election, BJP’s Maharashtra unit president Chandrakant Patil urged partymen to expedite pending infrastructure projects on a mission mode and improve its rickety public transport services.

According to sources, Mr. Patil is reported to have told the local party leaders that Union Home Minister Amit Shah was keenly following the party’s progress in Pune and other crucial civic bodies in the State ahead of the civic polls to be held in February next year.

Key points

Mr. Patil’s remark is significant as it underscores a pattern in the BJP’s planning in that even the leaders at the Centre had their eyes fixed on important, cash-rich civic bodies in Maharashtra like Pune, Mumbai and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Another key point in Mr. Patil’s instructions was to drastically improve communication with the public in the city’s ‘weak areas’ where the party was not firmly established.

“It has been part of the BJP’s expansion strategy that even vital civic body polls in the country have been overseen by top Central and State-level brass. Ahead of the 2017 PMC poll, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, among other Central leaders, had visited Pune. Last year in November, Mr. Shah along with BJP national president J.P. Nadda, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had campaigned for the party candidates in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections,” said senior city-based political analyst Rajendra Pandharpure.

According to poll watchers, the BJP, which prior to 2014, had its base limited to the State’s Vidarbha region, has been aggressively trying to lay deep roots throughout the State especially in pockets previously considered to be Congress and NCP strongholds.

“The BJP’s preparations reflect their intent on expanding their party base in areas in the State which until 2014 was dominated either by the Congress or Sharad Pawar’s NCP. In contrast, few among the Congress or the Shiv Sena's top brass have seldom shown any interest in campaigning for the civic polls outside their immediate sphere of influence or communicated with their potential constituents in a consistent manner,” says Mr. Pandharpure.

In the 2014 State Assembly election, the BJP had swept all the six seats in urban Pune, while the 2017 civic polls saw it clocking an emphatic wins in the PMC and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), and coming second only to the Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) poll.

The BJP set a record by winning nearly 100 of the 162 seats in the PMC while supplanting the NCP from the PCMC, in a personal blow to Ajit Pawar.

Since then, after the formation of the MVA and his reinstatement at the State’s Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. Pawar, in his capacity of Pune’s Guardian Minister, has left no stone unturned to wrest the PCMC back from the BJP.

In contrast to the BJP and the NCP, the Congress has suffered from the insipid leaderships of its past MPCC presidents Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat, say observers.

“Local Congress leaders had even urged more visits by the State leadership, but none were forthcoming. Sunil Kedar, who has been appointed the ‘communication minister’ for Pune, did not visit the city even once during the pandemic, let alone trying to consolidate his party’s base here,” observes Mr. Pandharpure.

A lacklustre attitude on part of the Congress and the Sena’s top brasses has led to a steady erosion (in case of the Congress) and stagnation (in the Sena’s case) of their respective part bases.

On the other hand, Devendra Fadnavis’s leadership has been vigorous with his continual visits and close coordination with local BJP leaders doing much to deepen the party’s influence at the civic level, said another analyst.

While admitting that his party’s grip in areas outside Mumbai and the Konkan was tenuous, a Shiv Sena leader pointed that MP and chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut had been making efforts over the last several months to expand the party’s base in Pune. Likewise, the Congress sees hope in current MPCC chief Nana Patole’s galvanising leadership.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 12:39:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bjp-bets-big-on-maharashtra-civic-polls-in-february/article37145857.ece

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