Mumbai: The curtains
came down Tuesday on one of the most brutal poll campaigns in
recent times by all major political parties - for Thursday's
elections to the 10 municipal corporations of Maharashtra.
The no-holds-barred campaign spared neither the parties nor their
respective allies, both in the ruling and opposition camps.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan led the Congress brigade in
attacking the opposition in an attempt to bag a majority in the 10
civic bodies. He was lent support by state party chief Manikrao
Thakre and ministers like Narayan Rane, besides parliamentarians
Sanjay Nirupam and Gurudas Kamat and others.
The campaign also saw an ageing Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray
shuffling into the campaign ring to boost his party's fortunes -
he addressed two rallies, one each in Mumbai and Thane.
Similarly, top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) like
state unit chief Sudhir Mungantiwar and leaders of opposition in
the legislature Eknath Khadse (assembly) and Vinod Tawde (council)
engaged in shooting verbal darts at the Congress, its ally the
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and at times even the
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of Raj Thackeray.
Not to be outdone, the NCP saw its chief and union Agriculture
Minister Sharad Pawar making a few appearances, and his nephew and
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R.R. Patil and
other top leaders strongly campaigning to woo the voters.
Given the below-the-belt levels and direct targeting of leaders,
Sharad Pawar, Thakre and Chief Minister Chavan appealed to their
flock to maintain 'restraint' during the campaign - but their
calls mostly fell on deaf ears.
Rane spoke of disrobing ('vastraharan') his bęte-noire the Shiv
Sena and the NCP. He alleged that "NCP is a party of goons" at a
rally in Pune, and claimed that Shiv Sena would be "wiped out"
after the civic elections.
Another 'civil' war that rivetted the electorate concerned the
Thackeray trio - Bal Thackeray, his son Uddhav and estranged
nephew Raj Thackeray.
The two senior Thackerays never missed any opportunity to hit out
at the younger Raj, who is making efforts to improve the MNS'
tally and, despite a handful of seats, emerge as a 'kingmaker'
after the election results. It's a possibility that has alarmed
all the other four major parties in the fray - Congress, NCP, BJP
and Shiv Sena.
The stage is set for the Thursday's elections to 1,244 seats,
including 624 for women, in Mumbai, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune,
Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Nashik, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur
municipal corporations that together have an electorate of 3.5