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Higher turnout may throw up surprises in the sugar belt

india Updated: Oct 18, 2014 12:54 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times
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For decades, western Maharashtra has elected stalwarts from the NCP and the Congress, who ruled the region and the state with a firm grip. This election may throw up some surprises for them, say political analysts.

A combination of factors, including anti-incumbency, the break-up of the Congress-NCP alliance, high voter turnout and a high-decibel campaign led by prime minister Narendra Modi of the BJP, has triggered speculation that change is in the air.

Opinion polls have predicted an edge for the BJP, with the NCP and Congress losing big in the sugar belt.

Western Maharashtra's 58 assembly constituencies from the five districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur saw turnout rise from 59% in 2009 to 64% on Wednesday.

The ABP News-AC Nielsen exit poll has predicted 18 seats for the BJP here, more than double the partyfs 2009 tally of eight.

A tally of 18 here could have significant ramifications on the overall state tallies of the BJP, Congress and NCP.

"Multiple factors may go against the NCP and Congress in western Maharashtra, including a strong anti-incumbency sentiment," says Prakash Pawar, professor of political science at Shivaji University in Kolhapur.

It hasn't helped that NCP stalwarts such as Ajit Pawar, RR Patil and Jayant Patil, and Congress bigwigs such as Prithviraj Chavan, Patangrao Kadam and Harshwardhan Patil were so locked into their individual battles for their respective constituencies that they did not venture beyond those areas for an entire week before the election.

In an indication of just how damaging the alliance split has proved to be for these two parties, the battle over Karad South has seen former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan taken on Congress rebel Vilaskaka Undalkar-Patil, a seven-time MLA from the constituency who is now standing as an Independent supported by the NCP, which withdrew its own candidate in order to back the rebel.

Further splitting the vote is BJP nominee Atul Bhosale. With this much competition, the record 72% turnout in Karad South on Wednesday - a whopping 17% higher than in 2009 - has left everyone guessing.

Massive public rallies organised by the BJP and headlined by Prime Minister Modi have given a further pitched tone to the battle here, particularly in key constituencies such as Kawathe-Mahankal, where former home minister RR Patil is being challenged by BJP nominee Ajit Ghorpade, who switched loyalties from the NCP a few months ago.