Amid Maratha unrest, Maharashtra goes for rural, local elections
Mumbai: The Maharashtra election commission on Monday announced the schedule for elections to 25 zilla parishads (district councils) and 212 municipal councils across the state. Polls will be held in four phases from 27 November to 8 January, Maharashtra election commissioner J.S. Saharia said. He also announced that the election code of conduct comes into force in the entire state except in the districts of Mumbai, Mumbai suburban and Thane.
Elections will be held for 4,750 seats, of which 2,445 are reserved for women, 608 for Scheduled Castes and 198 for Scheduled Tribes.
The local elections will be seen as a verdict on the performance of the two-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Maharashtra, political observers said. The elections are also significant in the context of large-scale Maratha unrest over demands including quotas in government jobs and education. Marathas comprise 34% of Maharashtra’s population and are largely dependent on agriculture, which underlines the influence they wield over these “semi-rural to rural” elections, said Prakash Joshi, a Mumbai-based political commentator and former journalist.
“These are mini general elections in Maharashtra as they would test whether people have accepted their 2014 verdict of choosing BJP and Shiv Sena or whether they will go back to their original Congress or NCP positions. The elections are more significant for the BJP in the context of Prime Minister Modi asking BJP cadres to not be euphoric and complacent after the surgical strikes (against terrorist bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). It has to be seen if the BJP cadres heed this advice and go back to the grass-roots with their performance,” Joshi said.