Maharashtra readies for civic corporation polls

As the curtains came down on the no-holds-barred campaign for elections to the 10 municipal corporations across Maharashtra, police and security forces readied to ensure an incident-free balloting Thursday. Over 20,000 policemen will be deployed in Mumbai city alone on the polling day, an official said.

The stage is set for an electorate of 3.5 crore to elect a total of 1,244 municipal councillors, including 624 women, in Mumbai, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Nashik, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur municipal corporations.

According to a civic official, of the 3.5 crore voters in these 10 municipal corporations, over a crore voters are in Mumbai alone. "Mumbai's total voters are nearly 1.3 crore," said Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar.

"The polling will start at 7:30 a.m. and would continue till 5:30 p.m.," he added.

As many as 8,326 voting centres are being set up across the city, with 41,000 municipal officers on duty.

Police have also stepped up security measures, deploying around 2,375 officers, 20,982 constables, and five additional companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) with the existing three companies.

"Three companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and 2,000 Home Guards will also be deployed in the city on the poll day," Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik said.

"As the voting will be held on Thursday, the deployment has begun today. We will be present in every lane and by-lane of the city," he added.

According to Patnaik, of the 211 sensitive polling stations, comprising 883 booths, four have been declared hypersensitive. There will be maximum deployment of security personnel at the hypersensitive spots, where CCTVs have been installed for recording every movement.

According to police officials, liquor sale has been prohibited for three days from Wednesday. Two control rooms have also been set up for poll-related complaints. Emergency numbers (022-22623054 and 022-22621983) have been dedicated for it.

The electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be dispatched to 29 centres across the city on Wednesday and will be guarded till the counting is completed on February 17.

According to Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Rajnish Seth, the candidates will have to take prior permission to carry out victory processions following the announcement of the results.

Meanwhile, a first information report (FIR) was registered late Tuesday against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and a Marathi news channel for allegedly violating model code of conduct ahead of the civic polls, police said Wednesday.

A local Marathi channel on Tuesday evening aired an interview of Raj Thackeray even after the code of conduct came into force Tuesday.

"The model code of conduct states that the poll campaign should conclude 48 hours before the polling. But the channel aired an interview of Thackeray, which has been termed as part of the campaign by a municipal officer who registered the FIR," a civic official from Mumbai's N. M. Joshi Marg, where the complaint has been registered, told IANS.

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