Top leaders from all parties made their final appeals to the 8.33 crore voters in Maharashtra as campaigning for the assembly polls ended on Monday. The state’s 288 assembly constituencies will go to polls on Wednesday (October 15) and the people’s mandate will be declared on Sunday (October 19).
The elections are being held in an unprecedented political situation, with a five-cornered contest on the cards, after the two major alliances – Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP – split just 48 hours before the filing of nominations ended.
While opinion polls have given the BJP an edge over others, Shiv Sena and Congress a close second and third, with the NCP and MNS trailing behind. As a fractured mandate would mean yet another coalition government, the parties have asked voters for a decisive verdict.
While the two-week campaigns missed out on crucial issues such as development and welfare of the masses, parties indulged in mudslinging and criticism.
Monday saw BJP’s trump card, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, make his final pitch for the party. At a rally in Konkan, a region traditionally dominated by ex-ally Shiv Sena, Modi highlight the issue of good governance. Modi attended 27 rallies in 10 days, surpassing his tally of 17 in the state during the Lok Sabha polls campaign.
While Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray picked north Maharashtra, a BJP stronghold, to end his party’s campaign, the Congress led by Prithviraj Chavan made their last pitch to the electorate in Karad, the ex-CM’s constituency. NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar made an appearance in their hometown Baramati, NCP chief Raj Thackeray interacted with the media in his last hurrah for the polls.
The elections are crucial for the BJP and PM Modi, especially after their sweep in the Lok Sabha polls. The result could decide the PM’s national political discourse and also reconstruct political equations in Maharashtra, where the Congress has been out of power for just a single term (1995-1999) since 1952.
The Congress camp has marketed Chavan’s clean image for garnering votes. It is also the first elections in which the Congress has not projected its national leadership.
For the NCP, which came into existence in 1999, it’s a do-or-die situation. After being in power for 15 years, the party was accused of large-scale corruption not only by opposition parties, but even by its ex-ally Congress.
Meanwhile, the Senas are looking to consolidate and expand their base. After the polls, the Shiv Sena, which stayed in alliance with the BJP for 25 years, will know its true strength. The Sena will know whether it is still a potent rightist force that can outsmart the BJP. On the other hand, MNS, which won 13 seats in 2009, is out to increase its strength in a changed scenario. The polls outcome could decide which way the Raj Thackeray-led MNS goes.