Campaigning ended today for the October 13 Assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, being seen as the first key test of popularity for major political parties after the Lok Sabha elections.
The over four week-long canvassing saw top leaders of Congress, BJP and other major players of regional parties hitting the campaign trail in a big way. The electioneering was occasionally marred by personal attacks.
While the campaign was generally peaceful, Naxalites struck in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra on Friday, killing 17 policemen in an ambush and triggering concern among the election authorities.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, party general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertook whirlwind tours of the three states, where the party is making all-out efforts to retain power.
Senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu were the opposition stalwarts who campaigned vigorously. Advani raised the Ram temple issue while seeking votes.
The campaign in Maharashtra saw personal attacks with MNS chief Raj Thackeray calling Shiv Sena Working President Uddhav Thackeray a "snake" and Chief Minister Ashok Chavan dubbing Raj a "frog". Raj also mimicked the Congress President at a poll rally, drawing a sharp reaction from the party.
Amravati constituency in Maharashtra has come into focus as President Pratibha Patil's son Rajendra alias Raosaheb Shekhawat of Congress is pitted against party rebel Sunil Deshmukh in that seat.
In Haryana, Congress is seeking a second term in office on the plank of development. The opposition in the state is a house divided with BJP snapping the tie-up with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD and BSP coming out of an alliance with Haryana Janhit Congress.
Congress appears to be on a strong wicket in Arunachal Pradesh where Chief Minister Khandu Dorjee is among three party candidates elected unopposed.
In Maharashtra, the NCP, a major partner of the Congress- led coalition, has been battling hard to retain its position after a poor showing in the Lok Sabha polls. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine has also been leaving no stone unturned to wrest power in the state.
Maharashtra has a total of 7,56,34,525 eligible voters to elect 288 MLAs, while Haryana has 1,20,63,257 electors for choosing 90 legislators. Arunachal Pradesh has 7,50,575 voters who can exercise their franchise to select 60 representatives.