Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar have taken centre stage in the run-up to the February elections to the 10 municipal corporations and 27 zilla parishads.
For the Shiv Sena, which was unable to recover from the successive defeats in the Assembly elections since 1999 and the recently concluded polls to the 195 municipalities, it is a fight for survival and to keep the morale of rank and file high.
Thackeray, who turned 85 on Monday, addressed Shiv Sena office-bearers last week with a call to remain alert and united for the party to succeed. He will hold election rallies in Mumbai and Thane.
Thackeray, who has already ruled out any patch up with his estranged nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, would make an emotional appeal to the Marathi Manoos to continue supporting his party and not the MNS. The appeal is aimed at avoiding any division of votes. Pawar, who is recovering from pneumonia, has taken the elections to the local and civic bodies as an opportunity to consolidate NCP’s position across Maharashtra and widen the party’s base.
Recently, Shiv Sena MP Anand Paranjape had met Pawar, hinting at the possibility of him joining the NCP.
Paranjape’s decision to meet Pawar at the state party headquarters in Mumbai had created a political storm.
The NCP chief is expected to address few meetings in Mumbai, Thane, Pune.
Incidentally, Thackeray and Pawar have delegated enough powers to their next of kin though the duo want to be proactive, considering that the elections are considered as “mini Assembly” polls in Maharashtra. Thackeray is time and again praising his son and the party executive president Uddhav for working tirelessly to draw up an election strategy. Pawar said his nephew and state deputy chief ministerAjit Pawar has the potential to become chief minister. Ajit is travelling extensively and he was the architect of NCP’s victory in the recently concluded elections to the 195 municipalities.
Thackeray, in a scathing attack on the Congress, said voting for the party means voting for corruption. In the days to come, he is expected to fire salvos against the Congress and the NCP.
Pawar had said the change of rule in the Mumbai civic body, which has an annual budget of over Rs 21,000 crore, was necessary to expedite the development process in India’s commercial and financial capital. The NCP chief said that even though he is friends with Thackeray, he will not mix politics in the relationship. He justified NCP’s decision to strike a poll alliance with the Congress despite getting a mere 58 seats with a sole objective of dislodging the Sena-BJP alliance.