BMC Polls: Millions cast votes in Maharashtra; results on Thursday

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Mumbai : Millions voted on Tuesday in Maharashtra to elect 10 major civic bodies, including the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India's largest and richest civic body.

The election, which will also pick 11 Zilla Parishads and 118 Panchayat Samitis, is widely seen as a referendum on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

By close of balloting, an estimated 50 per cent of Mumbai's 9.2 million (92 lakh) electorate had voted. Early voters included political leaders as well as Bollywood actors.

The country's commercial capital and the richest civic body has generally recorded a dismal voter turnout.

But the encouraging turnout prompted Fadnavis to tweet: "Thank you Mumbai for the record voting percentage and ... for participating in festival of democracy!"

Controlled by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for four terms, the BMC has a budget of Rs 37,052 crore for the current year (2016-17) catering to a population of around 18.30 million.

In comparison, neighbouring Goa's budget last year was around Rs 14,700 crore.

Voting was also conducted in other nine civic bodies (besides Mumbai) -- Thane, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Amravati, Akola and Nagpur.

This is the first time the fate of a state government could rest on the outcome of a municipal election, given the bitterness between the BJP and Shiv Sena in the run up to the polls.

An aggressive Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray has put the BJP government "on notice period" and said he would decide whether to continue the state-level alliance after the results on Thursday.

Since Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar has ruled out support in such an eventuality and predicted mid-term assembly polls, the Fadnavis government will be reduced to a minority.

For the BJP, the election is a virtual mid-term report-card on its much-bandied issue of transparency and clean governance.

A generous dose of glamour, glitz and power play was visible in Mumbai at the 7,304 booths to elect 227 BMC corporators from among 2,275 candidates.

Early voters included Sharad Pawar, his daughter Supriya Pawar, Uddhav and wife Rashmi Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj and wife Sharmila Thackeray.

Chief Minister Fadnavis and his wife Amruta voted in Nagpur. So did union minister Nitin Gadkari and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Among the Bollywood personalities who voted -- and asked everyone to vote too -- were Rekha, Hema Malini, Prem Chopra, Kamini Kaushal, Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Shraddha Kapoor, John Abraham, Vivek Oberoi, Arshad Warsi and Shreyas Talpade, renowned poet Gulzar and filmmaker Subhash Ghai.

Several teleserial actors and Marathi film stars too exercised their franchise.

Some like BJP state spokesperson Shania N.C. and actor Varun Dhawan could not vote as their names were missing from the voters list.

An electorate of 3.77 crore has put the seal on the fate of 17,331 candidates for 5,512 seats, including 1,268 in 10 municipal corporations, 2,956 in 11 Zilla Parishads and 1,288 seats in 118 Panchayat Samitis in the second and final phase of the polling.

The results shall be declared on Thursday.