As elections to the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and nine other municipal corporations in Maharashtra are fast approaching, saffron allies, Shiv Sena and BJP, appear to be engaged in a poster war. While some BJP leaders, including Thane MLA Sanjay Kelkar, have put up hoardings urging the party to go solo in the civic polls, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has also put up banners claiming to have achieved some major infrastructure projects in BMC. Interestingly, Shiv Sena has changed its election catchline from 'karun dakhawale' (we did it), which was widely used in the 2012 BMC and 2014 assembly elections, to 'did you know' (about Sena's development works) in the current run for BMC. "The hoardings that have come up in Thane and Pune in the last few days reflect a large section of BJP, which is demanding that the party should contest the civic elections all alone. This is not just about breaking an alliance, but about creating more opportunities for the party to grow," Kelkar said. Speaking to PTI, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said, "There is nothing wrong in both parties aspiring for expansion.
As the final decision about the alliance is going to be taken by Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, then why should we bother about the comments made by any other leader." Another Sena leader said, "The hoardings are nothing but assertion of the BJP workers' views. Even Shiv sainiks have put up billboards to strongly present our work and achievements. This time, we are better prepared and hence countering them through hoardings." Elections to 10 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, Thane and Pune, will be held on February 21, while polls to 26 zilla parishads (ZP) will be held in two phases on February 16 and 21, followed by counting of votes on February 23. Over seven crore voters in major cities and vast rural stretches areas will elect 1,258 corporators, 1,558 members of district councils and 3,116 panchayat samiti members. Stakes are high in the battle for the ruling BJP, which emerged as the winner in the just-concluded four-phase elections to 191 municipal councils and 19 nagar panchayats of Maharashtra. Whether the saffron allies will clinch a firm pre-poll pact, given the strains in their relations despite sharing power in the state and central government, remains to be seen.
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