The Central Election Commission has announced the poll dates for Assembly elections in two states today, September 21. The Model Code of Conduct has been applied with immediate effect. Polling will take place on October 21. The counting is scheduled for October 24. Maharashtra, which is India's most industrialised state, reeling under a debt of almost Rs 5 lakh crore is also set to chose a new government.
The total number of voters in Maharashtra are 8.94 crore, out of which 1.16 lakh are service voters. Total 1.8 lakh ballot units will be used and 1.39 lakh VVPATs will be used. Total number of Assembly constituency is 288.
Three alliances have been made so far, while negotiations of seat sharing and numbers are still on.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance is still uncertain. BJP is not ready to give equal number of seats i.e. 135 to Sena. It is believed that BJP has proposed a formula of 126 seats to Sena and 162 for their own party. In these 162 seats, other smaller parties will also be included by BJP. The final division of seats is expected to emerge by Tuesday, September 24.
On the other hand, the principle opposition alliance is uncertain as well. However, the seniormost leadership of both Congress as well as National Congress Party has said that the alliance is sealed and each party will contest in 125 seats. The remaining 38 seats will be given to smaller parties like Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Peasants and Workers Party of India, Swabhimani Shetkari, Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi, and other smaller groups. But the negotiations between Congress and NCP over exchanging of seats are still on. So, uncertainties are still looming.
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Prakash Ambedkar had joined hands with All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM's) Asaduddin Owaisi for Lok Sabha polls. But currently, they do not stand together. AIMIM leadership was angry over Ambedkar giving them just 8 seats. So they decided to contest on their own. But recently the efforts are on to patch up the two players. It is expected that the decision will be taken by the end of next week.
Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had created a storm through his rallies during the LS election campaigns. Though he had not contested, but he raised his voice strongly against BJP. Later, he also voiced his concerns over the EVM issue and was lobbied for a ban on EVM. He met Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi over the issue. Meanwhile, he received a notice from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) regarding his construction business. Since then, he has kept quiet. His supporters are also confused on whether he is willing to contest elections or not. There are signs that he is preparing himself for the Assembly elections but as of now he has not made any such announcement.
In the last two months, the BJP and Shiv Sena leadership have been successful in poaching large number of leaders and MLAs from Congress and NCP. Almost 26 prominent leaders including MLAs, MPs and others have joined either of these two parties. This number may increase by the end of next week. Both saffron parties are trying to subsume their competition even before it starts.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis completed a statewide tour 'Mahajandesh Yatra' and Thackeray scion Aditya is touring with his own 'Jan Ashirvad Yatra'. Shiv Sena is presenting Aditya as the face for Chief Minister’s post. On the other hand, Congress has not even started a statewide campaign. Only one yatra by former MP Nana Patole to question the claims made by Fadnavis has been undertaken. NCP has taken lead with its Shiv Swarajya Yatra. NCP MP and prominent Marathi actor Amol Kolhe, who is known for having played the role of King Sambhaji (Shivaji's son and second king of Maratha empire) is leading the yatra, and getting huge response from the youth.
Since last week, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the state's veteran politician has also been touring in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra. His influence over state politics is diminishing but the question now is whether he would be able to bounce back from this, or this will be the end of his political career.
Maharashtra has been facing a number of issues, the biggest challenge being unemployment. The other is farmers’ suicides. The Devendra Fadnavis government has disastrously failed on both fronts. One part of the state, especially the three districts of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad are still facing drought. While seven other districts, Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara in Western Maharashtra; Gadchiroli and Chandrapur in Vidarbha; Nandurbar in North Maharashtra and Palghar in Konkan are facing huge rainfall. On the front of relief and rehabilitation, the state government has miserably failed and affected people have been left to survive on their own. Whether these issues will have an impact on the state elections is the question now.
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In the meantime, BJP is trying to make issues including the abrogation of Article 370 and conflicts between India and Pakistan as the main focus of the Assembly elections in the state. In a recent rally in Nasik on September 19, PM Narendra Modi also pitched the Kashmir issue in his speech. All the senior leaders of BJP are trying to avoid the issues plaguing the state to prevent them from becoming the main narrative of the battle.