Mumbai: Counting of votes to declare the results of elections to 10 municipal corporations and 25 zila parishads (district councils) in Maharashtra will begin at 10am on Thursday. Among these, the outcome of elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the most keenly awaited as it is being seen as a direct clash between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A record high turnout in Mumbai—55.53% with 36 of the 227 civic wards witnessing more than 60% polling—has made the contest interesting and too close to call. In absolute terms, 5,097,565 voters took part in the polling out of the total electoral college of 9,180,491 registered voters.
The BMC result will be significant for two reasons. One, it will determine the future of the BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, where Shiv Sena is a partner. Two, it will show whether Shiv Sena is still the political big brother in Mumbai unchallenged by a resurgent BJP.
A spokesperson for the state Election Commission said the results of BMC and other civic elections would be out by 2pm but trends would start emerging around 11:30am. The Shiv Sena and the BJP have both claimed they would win power at BMC on their own though the BJP has struck a more conciliatory note ever since the polling on 21 February.
An India Today-Axis exit poll has predicted 86-92 seats for the Shiv Sena in the 227-member BMC and 82-88 seats for the BJP. Functionaries from the two parties believe the contest could even be closer than this but most agree that the Shiv Sena would emerge the single largest party.
“If Shiv Sena wins 90-plus seats and we are somewhere around 70-75, Shiv Sena will most likely not seek our support. It will see to it that its mayor is appointed with support from other parties and independents,” said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity. Asked if the Shiv Sena would think of pulling out of the state government in a scenario where it has won 90-plus seats, the BJP leader said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray “is known to be an ambivalent politician who has rarely taken swift decisions”.
The BJP has been enthused by the high turnout, which it feels is an indication of anti-incumbency. The Shiv Sena has virtually ruled the BMC since 1997 though the BJP has been a junior partner. Both the parties have also claimed high voting in their civic strongholds.
Other than Mumbai, the cities of Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Solapur, Amravati, Akola, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Thane and Ullhasnagar went to polls on 21 February. Elections also took place for 11 zila parishads on 21 February. In the first phase of polling on 16 February, voting took place for 15 zila parishads. Gadchiroli district in Vidarbha took part in both the phases.
Counting of votes for the civic elections would take place at the specially designated counting centres in the respective cities and district headquarters, as per state election commissioner J. S. Saharia. In Mumbai, the EC has designated 23 counting centres.