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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Hazare non-issue in Maharashtra municipality polls

Social activist Anna Hazare’s mobilisation against corruption may have attracted global attention and forced the Centre to take note, but he seems to be a non-issue in the ongoing campaign for elections to the 196 municipalities in Maharashtra. Instead, the ruling Congress and NCP and Opposition Shiv Sena and BJP are focussing on development issues. Polling has been postponed from December 8 to December 11, 13 and 23 in these municipalities, in view of pending appeals for orders in various courts.

Campaigning is underway in full swing, with parties treating these polls as a mini Assembly election. After the municipality elections, they would have to step up campaigning for polls to the 10 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, slated for February and 27 zilla parishads in March next year.

While Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is touring extensively for the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is banking on deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Shiv Sena is trying to lure voters on issues such as a higher minimum support price of cotton, lack of sufficient power for agriculture and the administration’s apathy towards scarcity-hit areas. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Sena’s alliance partner, is also geared up to garner votes on government’s inaction. The Republican Party of India (Athavale), until recently an ally of Congress-NCP, has joined hands with Sena-BJP combine and striving to woo dalit votes. State NCP president, Madhukar Pichad, told Business Standard, “Generally, elections to the municipalities are contested on local issues. Our party does not see any impact of Hazare factor. NCP is working hard to reach out to the voters on developmental issues. We are not leaving any stone unturned to improve its position across the state.”
Pichad’s views are shared by Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Sachin Sawant, who believes his party would benefit from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s clean image and his emphasis on transparency in administration. “The chief minister and state party chief Manikrao Thakre have been touring extensively. We are reaching out to voters with a slew of development initiatives taken by the central and state governments and do not see the Anna factor impacting our prospects,” he added.

A Shiv Sena MP said Hazare’s recent reaction to agriculture minister Sharad Pawar being attacked by a Sikh youth had sent an adverse signal to voters. “Party chief Bal Thackeray has written an editorial criticising Hazare’s stand in party’s mouthpiece Saamna. Shiv Sena is taking on the Congress-NCP alliance for its anti farmer and anti people policies,” he added.


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