Polling for the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and 9 other civic bodies across Maharashtra got underway this morning with estranged allies BJP and Shiv Sena at the forefront of this battle of might.
A total of 3.77 crore voters will determine the fate of 17,331 candidates for 3210 seats up for grabs in 10 municipal corporations, 11 zilla parishads and 118 panchayat samitis in the second phase of polls being seen as "mini general elections."
The stakes are high for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who have led their respective parties from the front and were involved in a high decibel and no holds barred campaign relegating the Opposition Congress and NCP to the background.
Polling began at 7.30 AM at 43,160 polling stations spread across the state.
The districts going to polls in the second phase are Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Pune, Solapur, Nashik, Amravati and Gadchiroli. Elections are being held in 118 panchayat samitis in these districts.
The ten municipal corporations include Mumbai, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.
As many as 43,160 polling booths have been set up.
There will be 2.76 lakh election staff and equal number of police personnel on the duty.
More than 1.80 crore electorate are eligible to exercise their franchise in the zilla parishads and panchayat samitis while 1.95 crore urban voters will in the ten Municipal corporations.
In Mumbai, the country's financial capital, there are 2275 candidates and 92 lakh voters. The election result for Asia's largest civic body which has been run by the Shiv Sena supported by the BJP for the last two decades will decide the fate of the Devendra Fadnavis government.
In municipal corporations excluding Mumbai, there are multi member wards where a voter will have to cast his vote for each of the category in the panel. Each panel has more than two wards.
The big poll focus is on 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), retaining control of which is vital for Shiv Sena as the city has remained its prime political space ever since the party's formation in 1966. Shiv Sena has been in power in BMC for over two decades.
BJP, which had been a junior partner of Sena before it gained the upper hand through the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, declined to accept the number of seats offered by the Sena.
It has set its eyes on gaining power in BMC, one of the world's largest city bodies, boasting of an annual budget of over Rs 37,000 crore.
For 1268 seats of the ten municipal corporations, there are 9208 candidates; for 11 zilla parishads there are 2956 candidates for 654 seats, and 5167 candidates for 1288 seats in 118 panchayat samitis.
The first phase for 15 zilla parishad and 165 panchayat samitis polling was held on February 16 where 69 percent voters exercised their franchise.
Counting of votes will be taken up on February 23.