Moderate turn-out in Maharashtra civic polls

Around 54% of about 2.02 crore electorate Thursday exercised their franchise for polls in 10 municipal corporations of Maharashtra.

Mumbai: Around 54 percent of about 2.02
crore electorate Thursday exercised their franchise for polls in
10 municipal corporations of Maharashtra, including the
cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

In Mumbai, only 46 percent of the 1.02 crore voters cast
ballots, despite the state government declaring a public
holiday today.

State Election Commissioner Neela Satyanarayan expressed
concern about the low turn-out.

In the last three civic polls, over half the electorate
in Mumbai did not exercise their franchise, with the voting
percentage ranging between 42 and 46 percent. In 2007 polls,
only 46 percent had voted.

The voting percentages in other nine cities today were as
follows: Thane (52 percent), Ulhasnagar (43 percent), Nashik
(58 percent), Pune (53 percent), Pimpri-Chinchwad (56 percent), Solapur (58 percent), Akola (57 percent), Nagpur (55
percent) and Amravati (58 percent).

Billed as a mini-assembly election, the polls will test
the political acumen and charisma of not only Chief Minister
Prithviraj Chavan, but also Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray
and his son Uddhav Thackeray.
While the Sena is desperately trying to extend its
16-year rule in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for
another five years in alliance with BJP and Ramdas Athavale`s
RPI, the Congress has stitched up an alliance with NCP for the
first time for the civic body polls.

The counting will start tomorrow morning, and results
would be out by the afternoon.

BMC, the country`s richest civic body with a budget of
over Rs 20,000 crore, more than that of many states, has 227

While Sena chief Bal Thackeray, son Uddhav and grandson
Aditya voted in Bandra, MNS chief Raj Thackeray cast his vote
in central Dadar area of Mumbai.

In Nagpur, BJP president Nitin Gadkari rode a scooter to
the polling booth to cast his vote. In Pune, sacked
Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh
Kalmadi cast his vote along with wife Meera.

Across the ten cities, 9,534 candidates are in the fray
for 1,244 seats. In Mumbai, 2,232 candidates are in the fray.

While Sena-BJP alliance controls BMC, Thane, Ulhasnagar,
Nashik and Nagpur, Congress-NCP combine is in power in Pune
and Solapur. Amravati civic body is held by the Congress and
Pimpri-Chinchwad by NCP.

The 73-member Akola municipal corporation was under
Congress-NCP rule, but was dissolved by the state government
last year over financial irregularities.

Counting of votes in 27 zilla parishads, where polling
was held on February 7, will also take place tomorrow.

Congress MP from Mumbai North-Central constituency, Priya
Dutt, expressed strong displeasure over the apathy of voters.

"It is very sad that a lot of people have not come out to
vote. If you don`t vote, you have no right to complain. They
are not contributing to the society. You are getting what you
deserve," she said.
HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh also disapproved of the
people`s lukewarm response. "Voting is a fundamental right and
people must exercise their franchise," he said.

Many Bollywood personalities, including Shahrukh Khan,
cast their vote.

Besides Shahrukh, scriptwriter Salim Khan and his son
Arbaaz Khan, film-makers Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, Madhur
Bhandarkar cast their votes.

Among other celebrities who exercised their franchise
were Anupam Kher, Pritish Nandy, Kailash Kher, Dia Mirza,
Sonali Bendre, Pooja Bedi, Shakti Kapoor, Boman Irani, Rajat
Kapoor, Celina Jaitley, Divya Dutta and Tisca Chopra.

Lyricist Gulzar, who duly arrived at the polling station
to cast the vote, was disappointed to find out that his name
was missing from the voters` list.

BJP candidate from ward 41 in Mumbai, Vinod Shelar,
lodged a complaint against Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who, he
alleged, illegally entered a polling booth.

A 55-year-old identified as Lalmani Vishwakarma collapsed
and died while in a queue at the polling booth at Yograj
Vidyalaya in Saki Naka, in ward number 154.

BMC commissioner Subodh Kumar said that S-ward recorded
the highest polling at 55.05 percent, while A-ward registered
the lowest polling at 34.15 percent.

Mumbai`s polling record this time was slightly better
than 2007, he added.


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