FIVE MAIN ISSUES
The irrigation scam along with corruption allegations against several former ministers including former public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar mainly from the NCP has given BJP and Sena to hit the former ruling alliance before the assembly polls.
However, BJP has also courted controversy by giving tickets to some of these tainted ministers including Vijay Gavit and Babanrao Pachpute.
The irrigation scam, cycle of drought and hailstorms which had aggravated troubles for farmers has been a much talked of issue in the polls in rural areas.
BJP and Sena pointed to farmers suicides as an indicator of agrarian crisis, while Congress and NCP labelled BJP as indifferent to farmers pointing to recent decisions that have done little to improve pricing of farm produce.
Development or the lack of it in the most leading state of the country is the biggest election issue in 2014 assembly polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been hammering on the lack of development in Maharashtra in infrastructure, power sector agriculture, in all his rallies.
Both Congress and NCP have also flagged development as an issue showcasing work done by the government in the last 15 years.
United Maharashtra has become a poll issue after both Congress and Sena accused the BJP of trying to split the state by advocating separate state of Vidarbha. Both these parties also alleged that BJP is looking at carving out Mumbai from the state. The issue has an emotive appeal for citizens owing to the Samyukta Maharashtra movement of the 60s.
Maharashtra vs Gujarat
The latent competition between the neighbouring states, Maharashtra and Gujarat has become a poll issue. To counter the Modi blitzkrieg, the rest of the parties have alleged the BJP of a bias towards Gujarat, accusing Modi of trying to reduce the status of the financial capital of the country by taking away industry from Mumbai.
FIVE KEY CONTESTS
1. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan will face a multi-corner contest in his home turf, South Karad in Western Maharashtra. His main contender is sitting Congress legislator Vilas Patil Undalkar, who is contesting as an independent besides BJP's Atul Bhosale and Sena's Ajeenkya Patil.
2. Former home minister R R Patil is said to be on a sticky wicket in his constituency of Tasgaon in Sangli, Western Maharashtra. He has a tough contender in BJP's Ajit Ghorpade, a former Congress legislator.
3. Sitting BJP legislator and daughter of late Gopinath Munde, Pankaja faces her cousin, Dhananjay in the fight to retain her home turf, Parli in Beed district. Dhananjay is contesting on NCP ticket.
4. Former industries minister Narayan Rane will face Sena's local youth leader Vaibhav Naik in his bastion, Kudal in Konkan in what is being regarded as a tough contest. Sena had got a lead of 22,000 votes from Kudal in the Lol Sabha polls. The presence of NCP and BJP candidates further complicates this contest.
5. BJP's senior leader Vinod Tawde faces a five corner poll contest in Borivali constituency in Mumbai, his first assembly election. Tawde's main contender is Sena’s Uttam Agarwal but he also faces MNS, Congress and NCP in a multi-corner contest.
In the high stakes assembly polls, money has been flowing freely with several instances of Election Commission or police seizing unaccounted for cash from party candidates. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar is among those who will face a case of unaccounted cash.
Sena and MNS bhai, bhai
In the middle of the poll campaign, both Shiv Sena and MNS, arch enemies indicated that they were willing to ally with one another. Both the parties started targeting Modi and BJP, with Raj Thackeray, MNS chief also making a claim that the cousins had spoken to each other after the saffron alliance split and considered going for elections together.
Friend turned foe, Sena targets Modi
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray went hammer and tongs with his criticism of BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even calling the latter Afzal Khan, commander in Adil Shah’s sultanate who fought Maratha warrior king Shivaji and was killed by him.
Former home minister RR Patil at the fag end of the campaign created controversy by trivialising rape. At a campaign speech, in a bid to slam his opponent, a MNS candidate who faces rape charges, RR said that the candidate should have at least waited for the elections to get over and then committed rape.
Patil apologised post the remarks and earned ire of his party chief Sharad Pawar. Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari got into a soup after he told voters at some public rally that they can take money from all but should vote only for the BJP.
Maharashtra versus Gujarat
The competition between the neighbouring states became a flashpoint during the election campaigns with all political parties taking on BJP on the issue. Modi was referred to as the PM of Gujarat, he was accused of trying to split the state and dilute status of Mumbai. BJP on a back foot took back one of its ad campaigns that had rubbed many people the wrong way and become a butt of jokes and in course correction released positive ads.
FIVE BIG NUMBERS
288 - Number of seats
4119 - Number of candidates in the fray
8,33,93043 - Number of voters (Male – 44027473, Female – 39364179, others - 1391)
91327 - Number of polling centres
15 – Number of years Congress-NCP government ruled the state