With the Maharashtra Assembly polls less than a year away, the ruling BJP is making every effort to continue its winning spree in the local bodies and aims to pocket the Dhule and Ahmednagar municipal corporations, where elections will be held on December 9.
The result of Ahmednagar civic body would be crucial for the Congress and play a decisive role in the political future its leaders, including Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, former minister Balasaheb Thorat and state Youth Congress chief Satyajit Tambe.
There are total 27 municipal corporations in Maharashtra. Out of the 25 civic bodies, where elections were held in the last two years, the BJP has emerged as the single largest party in over a dozen of them. A few months ago, it swept the Sangli and Jalgaon municipal corporations amidst the Maratha quota stir.
"Congress and NCP are better placed to win since Shiv Sena, BJP and local MLA Anil Gote are contesting the polls independently," he said alleging massive use of money power from the BJP, a charge denied by the ruling party.
Gote, who is the BJP MLA, has fielded candidates from his local outfit Loksangram. He has accused the BJP of including in its fold persons of criminal background.
In the 70 member Dhule civic body, 34 corporators are from the NCP, 10 from Congress, three from BJP and 11 from Shiv Sena, while the rest are from local outfits and independents. But the number of seats has now been increased to 74.
In Ahmednagar, 18 of the 68 member civic body belong to the NCP, 11 Congress, nine BJP, 17 Shiv Sena, four MNS and nine independents.
Both these prominent cities of North Maharashtra have a combined voter population of nearly eight lakh. While Dhule has 4.46 lakh voters, there are 3.46 lakh voters in Ahmednagar.
Political observers say that in Dhule, the BJP has poached on 12 sitting NCP corporators and that has brought the party to agree for seat-sharing talks with the Congress.
There was no dispute in the seat adjustments, because local leaders of both the parties agreed to cooperate, the observers said.
"Senior Congress leader Rohidas Patil is aspiring for a Lok Sabha ticket from Dhule. His son Kunal is a sitting Congress legislator from Dhule rural, while NCP leader Rajvardhan Kadambande is aspiring for assembly ticket from Dhule city.
"Since all have agreed to co-operate with each other in the assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the two parties hope to give the BJP a tough fight," a Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity.
The Shiv Sena is fighting independently and there are two groups within the BJP, observers pointed out.
"A section of the BJP resent the rise of state Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, who is the party's in-charge of North Maharashtra. Local BJP MLA Anil Gote has fielded his own candidates for the civic polls," observers say.
In Ahmednagar, the BJP is likely to benefit from the weak organisational structure of the Congress, observers said, adding that Congress leaders Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Balasaheb Thorat and Satyajit Tambe, hail from the district and the results of the civic polls will determine their political future.
A party leader from the district said these three leaders hail from North Ahmednagar, which falls in the Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency. While the Ahmednagar city is in Ahmednagar South Lok Sabha constituency.
"Due to the encroachment of these leaders from the North, the Ahmednagar south Lok Sabha constituency has never seen the growth of leadership.
"In 2014, Satyajit Tambe was put up as a candidate from Ahmednagar city assembly seat, where he lost miserably. The seat was won by Sangram Jagtap of the NCP. Now, since the seat is likely to go to the NCP for 2019 assembly polls, Tambe is not inclined to lead Ahmednagar and is now eyeing Nashik Lok Sabha seat," the party leader said.
Vikhe Patil's son Sujay is keen to contest Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency, which is in the NCP quota.
"Sujay is on record to state that he will contest the Lok Sabha polls from Ahmednagar on any party ticket or as an independent," observers said.
According to the political observers, it would be interesting to see how the political drama unfolds in the days to come. The local Congress leaders in Ahmednagar doubt if the party can retain its tally of 11 seats in the civic body.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)