Mumbai: With a marathon meeting of 5.5 hours, attended by all of its 114 candidates in the 2019 assembly polls, former MLAs, and 55 suggestions from party leaders to discuss, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Wednesday kicked off its preparation for next year’s civic polls across Maharashtra.
At the meeting chaired by NCP president Sharad Pawar at Mumbai’s Y.B. Chavan Centre in Nariman Point, the party decided not to have a “blanket alliance” with any party for the local polls — seen as a mini-assembly election — and take decisions for local tie-ups based on the situation on the ground.
The Shiv Sena, an ally of the NCP within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance, is, however keen to continue the alliance for the civic polls, together with the NCP and Congress.
“In the next 4-5 months, there are elections to local bodies such as Zilla Parishads nagar panchayats, municipal councils and corporations. Pawar saheb asked all leaders to start preparing the party’s local administration for the polls. There will be no blanket alliance with anyone for these polls. We will take a call for each election depending on the local situation,” NCP Mumbai president Nawab Malik and a minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led cabinet told reporters.
Ten municipal corporations, including local bodies of major cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Thane, are scheduled to go to polls in the next six months.
In addition, elections to municipal corporations such as Navi Mumbai, Kalyan Dombivli and Aurangabad that were scheduled this year but were postponed due to Covid, will also be held next year. Elections to a bunch of Zilla Parishads and municipal councils are also slated for next year.
Congress leaders in Maharashtra have repeatedly said that they want to contest the polls independently.
Wednesday’s meeting included all NCP office bearers, the party’s sitting, and former MLAs as well as the party’s unsuccessful candidates in the 2019 assembly polls.
More tours across Maharashtra, Janata Darbars
NCP’s guardian ministers and district coordinators have been asked to undertake more tours to different districts, especially those that have been hit by inundation since July, NCP’s Malik added.
“We will start Janata Darbars of NCP ministers in the party’s Mumbai office once again after the Ganpati visarjan while adhering to all Covid protocol. The meetings were discontinued during the second wave of the pandemic. We will also start Janata Darbars in districts where we have guardian ministers,” he added.
‘Janata Darbars’ was a concept the NCP had introduced after coming to power in 2019 — every week one of the party’s ministers would sit in the party headquarters meeting people and addressing their issues.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the NCP also decided to keep the seats that were earlier reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for candidates from the community if the issue of political reservations for the OBCs is not resolved by then.
The Supreme Court in May struck down political quotas for the OBCs in local bodies, saying it was crossing the 50 per cent cap. Last week, all parties in Maharashtra met under CM Thackeray’s leadership and decided to delay local polls till such a time that political reservation for the OBCs is restored.
Ministers asked to address NCP leaders’ issues on a priority
An MLA from Nashik district, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint that Pawar asked all those present to voice specific issues that people in their constituencies were facing.
“Leaders put forth issues of delays in getting electricity connections, shortage of Covid vaccines in certain places, many said individual households are being affected by the rise in fuel prices. Issues of the recent flooding in Marathwada districts also came up,” said the MLA.
The MLA said that other MLAs at the meeting had mentioned that issues being put forth by NCP leaders were not being resolved despite the party being a ruling constituent in the state.
“Pawarsaheb has asked all ministers to look into the issues discussed today with priority,” he added.
“About the issue of fuel price hike, he directed leaders to bring them to the notice of the Union government while maintaining Covid-related protocols,” he added.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)