Maharashtra is all set to elect the next government. The state is going to polls for 288 Assembly constituencies today along with Haryana. All the political parties in the state are vying for the votes of almost 9 crore voters in this electoral battle. There are four main electoral alliances in this election. Along with the Assembly election, by election will also be held for the Satara Lok Sabha constituency.
Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, the ruling parties in the state since 2014 have again formed an alliance this time. BJP is contesting 164 seats whereas Shiv Sena is contesting 124 seats. The former has also accommodated smaller parties within its fray, giving their symbol—lotus—to such candidates.
Another major alliance is of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, Peasants and Workers Party of India, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi have formed an alliance. In this, Congress is contesting on 157 seats, NCP on 117 while the rest of seats are shared among the other parties.
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Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) is contesting in 142 Assembly seats. It has also extended support to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on some seats.
Along with this, regional parties like Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS), Bachchu Kadu's PRAHAR and others are contesting the elections independently. There are smaller parties in Vidarbha and Marathwada which may not win but may be able to cut the votes of prominent candidates of either sides.
Cross Cutting Across Lines
On some seats, opposition parties have formed informal alliances to put up a strong fight against BJP's candidates. Like in Kothrud seat of Pune, BJP's second in command Chandrakant Patil is challenged by MNS's candidate. Here, Congress and NCP have declared their support to the MNS candidate.
Another such interesting alliance has been formed in Pimpri seat of Pune district. The candidate here—a Shiv Sena rebel—is being supported by NCP, Congress and other parties against BJP’s Lakshman Jagtap.
Meanwhile, on some seats, despite being in an alliance, BJP and Sena are contesting against each other. Like in Satara's Man seat, two brothers are contesting from BJP and Sena against each other. Or in Kankavali seat, BJP haa given ticket to Nitesh Rane and Shiv Sena has given ticket to Satish Sawant.
The state is witnessing a tough fight amongst candidates in several districts. The most prominent one it the fight between cabinet minister and BJP candidate Ram Shinde and NCP's Rohit Pawar, grandson of Sharad Pawar. Another battle is between the Munde cousins. Cabinet Minister Pankaja Munde is challenged by NCP and opposition leader Dhananjay Munde. Another neck to neck battle is between BJP's Harshwardhan Patil (Congress turncoat) and NCP's Dattatray Bharane in Indapur seat of Pune. In Satara, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is facing BJP's Atul Bhosale.
After winning 41 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra in the 2019 LS elections, the BJP-Sena alliance is high on confidence. In addition, it has also poached around 40 leaders from the Congress-NCP camp ahead of the Assembly elections. Even though this has improved the right-wing alliance’s chances, but at the same time it has also invited large scale of rebellion from within its rank and file. There are 55 seats where BJP-Sena is facing trouble from rebels.
On the other hand, the Congress-NCP alliance could be seen struggling for resources. The lack of united campaign by both principal opposition parties is significant. Not a single united rally has been addressed by both the parties
The most prominent faces in this election are incumbent CM Devendra Fadnavis, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, VBA’s Prakash Ambedkar, MNS’s Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray. Fadnavis’s political acumen proved beneficial as he was successful in sealing the alliance with Shiv Sena despite strong opposition within his party.
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At the age of 79, after several of his party members shifted camps, Sharad Pawar is fighting a lonely battle. However, at the same time, he has set an example for the opposition to take on BJP’s mammoth electioneering machine. He took the Enforcement Directorate on a ride at the start of elections and at the end addressed a rally of thousands of people while being soaked in rain.
Prakash Ambedkar had hoped to win five to seven LS seats during the general elections. But, his alliance with the All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) managed only a single seat. This time there is no alliance, but during the general elections, his party had affected the results of Congress-NCP in 47 seats. Whether he will be able to hold his influence on voters in this election remains to be seen.
After a stormy LS campaign, where he didn't contest for a single seat, Raj Thackeray has come across as confused politician during this election. He has been struggling to appeal to the Marathi voters, and aiming to cut into Shiv Sena’s vote share in this current election.
Shiv Sena’s heir, Aaditya Thackeray, who is making his debut in electoral politics has also been able to gain the voters’ attention. He is contesting from Worli seat which has been a fort of Sena. He also completed Jan Ashirvad Yatra, a statewide tour, in the last two months.
The right wing alliance, specifically BJP has been trying to pitch the election campaign on the abrogation of Article 370 despite there being a number of issues in the state. All the star campaigners from BJP, from Prime Minister Modi to Home Minster Amit Shah spoke on 370 in every single election rally they addressed.
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However, the opposition parties including Congress, NCP, VBA and others did succeed to an extent to not let the election campaign to be just focused on the nationalism pitch. Several people’s issues like unemployment, slowdown, farmers’ suicides and failure of state government did generate much debate among the voters.
After Udayanraje Bhosle, 13th descendant of King Shivaji who had won the general elections from NCP this year, ditched NCP to join BJP, bypolls are being held in Satara today. Udayanraje had already won the battle three months back and whether he still will be able to capture the voters’ attention remains to be seen. Now, this has become a battle of prestige for both BJP and NCP. Even though, this Assembly constituency is NCP's bastion as per organisational structure but Udayanraje's charisma is all that BJP is banking on.