Starting a new series to round up of news and analysis related to municipal corporations elections that will be held in the years 2021 and 2022. As many as 15-20 corporations go to the polls by the end of 2022. Will look at important news and analyze events that affect these municipal polls.
Political rallies banned in Maharashtra due to increasing number of Covid cases
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced on Sunday, 21st Feb that in view of the increased Covid cases in the state, all political and religious rallies will be banned. This is smart politics on part of the Sena supremo as the opposition BJP was gaining momentum in the last two months on the back of protests on the ground, on the back of reasonable success in the panchayat polls. Protests on issues like high electricity bills and Pooja Chavan suicide case etc. have caused discomfort to the ruling coalition.
The ban on political rallies for an indefinite period arrests that momentum and is helpful for the MVA government. Though on the flip side, the Congress and NCP were also very active on the streets for protesting against high petrol, diesel and LPG prices. These parties will also be affected as their protests will also be cut short. The relations between the MVA partners are not hunky dory and there is tension simmering inside the alliance. All three parties are trying to expand their support base and much of it will be at the cost of each other. The MNS had also been very active on the ground in various agitations over the last 3-4 months. Their momentum will also be diffused by this ban.
The MVA government has used the ban on rallies smartly over the past year to subdue to agitation for reservation by the Maratha community. The community has not been able to organize mass protests as government has put restrictions on rallies due to large number of Covid cases. Next few days will be interesting on how the political parties and various caste groups react to the ban on political rallies.
Parties start making moves on the ground
With big municipal corporations like Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar and Kolhapur going to the polls in the next few months and elections in Kalyan-Dombivali (KDMC) and Aurangabad municipal corporations already due, the political parties have started making moves on the ground. Making strategies at the ward level, inducting leaders from other parties to strengthen party in a specific locality or inaugurating public amenities has started in full force. Even in huge municipal corporations like BMC, Thane, Pune and Nagpur, corporators and leaders of various parties have become active and have started meeting their voters.
MLAs and corporators of all parties have started spending their MLA/ corporator funds to build amenities like internal roads, beautifying gardens or building common amenities within large housing societies. Such gestures in the large housing societies having approx. 500-1000 voters can help to mobilize voters and are significant as ward vary in size from 25,000 voters to about 50,000 voters (in Mumbai). Similarly building common libarires and renovating public toilets in slum areas are measures used by parties to connect with their voters. Parties also get their leaders to visit areas where they perceive the need to strengthen their party.
While the Covid situation has meant that election dates are not yet finalized, but all parties are proactive in preparing their strategies for various wards. On Saturday, CM Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated projects like BKC to Western Express Highway connector flyover (project started under Fadnavis government) and laid the foundation stone for the bridge between Bandra-Worli Sealink and the under construction Mumbai Transharbour link (MTHL) at Sewri.
BJP leaders have been active in Pune and Nagpur (corporations held by the BJP) doing similar activities and holding strategic meetings. The Congress has also been trying to activate it’s workers who had been in a coma state in the 2014-2019 period. The Congress wants to wrest the Nagpur corporation from the BJP, while the NCP is eyeing the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad (PCMC) corporation which is currently ruled by the BJP. The BJP while trying to retain the corporations held by the party, is also working hard to wrest the BMC from former ally Shiv Sena. The next few months will see similar moves at grassroot level by all major political parties.