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Around 58 per cent voters exercised their franchise in 10 municipal corporations in Maharashtra in largely incident-free polling on Thursday, with Mumbai recording 46 per cent voting as major parties made all out efforts to dominate the state's urban landscape.
In Mumbai, where the Shiv Sena-BJP combine pulled out all stops to retain power in India's richest civic body, the voting percentage was better than that in the last polls.
State Election Commissioner Nand Lal said the percentage in Mumbai was more than the approximate 42 per cent recorded during the last BMC polls in 2002. Earlier in the day, he had said the percentage in Mumbai would be around 50.
Polling percentage in other municipal corporations where elections were held was: Thane 60, Ulhasnagar 46, Pune 57, Pimpri-Chinchwad 65, Nashik 60, Solapur 60, Akola 65, Amravati 65 and Nagpur 60.
The elections were by and large peaceful with stray incidents of violence. In Ulhasnagar in neighbouring Thane, voting was stopped at four polling stations briefly after Electronic Voting Machines were damaged by a mob in ward number 27.
Polling resumed after poll officials removed 'memory chips' in the machines and put in new EVMs, Nand Lal told media persons in Mumbai.
In Akola, polling was stopped for about 15 minutes after violence in two polling booths of ward number 37. The incident occurred after a local corporator tried to pressurise polling officials to allow some people to vote without insisting on the mandatory identity verification, the sources said.
In Mumbai, clashes erupted between workers of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, outside a polling booth in central Mumbai.
MNS president Raj Thackeray expressed confidence that the increase in voters' turnout will benefit his party. A similar sentiment was expressed by Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, who said the party would retain the BMC.
In neighbouring Thane, as many as four zones recorded over 60 per cent of voting for the new 116-member civic body, Municipal Commissioner Nandkumar Jantre told media persons.
In the last corporation polls, the overall voters' turnout in Thane was 43 per cent. The polling process was by and large peaceful barring some sporadic incidents of bogus voting and minor riots. Jantre admitted that in some areas, the voting process was slow on account of polling staff taking a long time to verify the credentials of the voters. However, the situation was corrected either by increasing the staff strength or replacing them, he said.
In Shastri Nagar locality, more than 200 voters, who had produced postal investment documents as verification, were not allowed to vote as their investment was fresh and had been made after the announcement of elections, he said.
In Nasik, Returning Officer Ramesh Kale said polling for the new 108-member civic body at 698 centres was by and large peaceful. There are 787 candidates in the fray. According to the police, barring some minor incidents of clashes between rival groups and bogus voting, the polling process passed off peacefully amidst tight police security.
Many voters had to return from the polling centres after they found that their names were missing from the list. Some were not allowed to cast votes as they had come without proper identity proof. Considerable enthusiasm was seen among voters, especially those from the middle class, with the young and the old queuing up outside booths to exercise their democratic right.
In Pune, barring some minor incidents, polling for 144-member civic body was peaceful. As many as 1134 candidates are in the fray in Pune. Eight persons were detained in Pimpri-Chinchwad for impersonation, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation Election Officer Kanhuraj Bagate said.
In PCMC, 690 candidates are contesting for 104 seats. Both the corporations, currently having women mayors, would once again have women as their mayors.
Congress candidate Kokila Gajanan Daberao has been declared elected unopposed from Ward no 55 in Akola. So election was held for the remaining 69 wards, Returning Officer Chandrashekhar Rokde said.
Polling was delayed by half hour due to technical snag in electronic voting machines at Vidya Mandir Kanyashala booth. Stone pelting and mild police lathicharge were reported from polling centre no 136 in Bhandpura locality. Outgoing Congress Corporator Aliyar Khan and his son Azad Khan were detained, the police said.
Counting of votes begins at 9 am on Friday and results are expected around 4 pm, SEC sources said.
GOVERNOR UNABLE TO VOTE
Maharashtra Governor S M Krishna was unable to vote in the Mumbai municipal polls on Thursday.
His name was not in the voters' list, Raj Bhavan sources said.
"The governor's name was not on the list as certain formalities had not been completed by the authorities," a Raj Bhavan source said.
However, Nand lal put the onus on the governor, saying, "It is the duty of the citizen to register himself as a voter. We cannot approach anyone and ask them to do so. You must ask the governor whether he had registered or not."
Raj Bhavan sources said this was the first election since he became governor in December 2004, and he had not yet voted in Mumbai.
"His name should have been in the list because, after all, he is the first citizen of the state," a source said.
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