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MUSLIM POLITICS

Congress Blooms Again
A Staff Writer
Mumbai
The Congress has regained Muslim votes in four of the five municipal corporations.

After emerging as the leading party in four of the five municipal corporations that went to polls recently, the Congress has made a resounding comeback as far as Muslim votes is concerned. In fact, the party bagged 149 of the total 371 seats in the sensitive districts of Bhiwandi, Malegaon, Parbhani, Latur and Chandrapur. This is indicative of its ability to restore its traditional Muslim vote-bank. Only months ago, in the February polls held for 10 municipal corporations, including the BMC in Mumbai and TMC in Thane, the Congress suffered a major political setback after Muslims drifted away from them. However, unholy alliances between NCP, Shiv Sena, BJP and Independents at work in the recent elections failed to scuttle the Congress prospects in four of the five corporations, where it is now the leading force. The only exception being Parbhani, where NCP won 30 of the 65 seats in the municipal corporation. For the first time in the three corporation elections, the power loom town of Malegaon witnessed Congress gaining an upper hand.
In fact, Congress won 25 of the 80 seats in the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) elections held recently. In a repeat of the 2007 polls, the Congress and Teesra Mahaz, decided to form an alliance to rule the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) for the next five years. The Congress local
president of Malegaon, Shaikh Asif said, “The alliance was formed for Malegaon’s development. Teesra Mahaz opted for the alliance to avoid
‘horse-trading’. As per the agreement reached between the two parties, Congress will have its mayor for the entire term and a Teesra Mahaz candidate will become deputy mayor.”
Interestingly, in the 2007 elections, Teesra Mahaz was the single largest party and the Congress was second in terms of total number of seats. At that time, Congress had helped Teesra Mahaz to elect its
mayor. In a repeat of the 2007 polls, the Congress and Teesra Mahaz, decided to form an alliance to rule the Malegaon Municipal Corporation Even the 90-member Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation has thrown up an identical scenario with 31 independents and smaller parties getting elected. The Congress scored 26, NCP-9, SS - 16, BJP-8, while MNS scored a nil in the house, again throwing open prospects of a Congress-led alliance in the civic body.
With the state assembly elections due after two-and-half years, both Malegaon and Bhiwandi are considered crucial for the Congress-NCP, for the strong contingent of minority votes in the two towns. Breaking a three-term record, the Congress has emerged as the largest party in the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation election, winning 26 seats. It is set to rule again in the civic body with support from the NCP and some independent candidates.