Sunday saw all parties bring out their big guns for one last high-decibel round of campaigning to pound home their message to voters. The campaign for the October 15 election officially ends on Monday evening, but the parties preferred to use Sunday for the big rallies and leave Monday for candidates to work their constituencies.
Sniffing victory after most pre-poll surveys had it ahead, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold five rallies in the state, including at Borivli and Thane.
Ally-turned-foe Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray also held five rallies, the last of them a massive show of strength at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in the city. Earlier in the day, he had spoken at Dapoli, Shrivardhan, Alibaug, and Karjat, all in Raigad.
As some surveys predicted that the BJP may fall short of the numbers to form a government on its own, Modi hammered home the point that the voters need to give it a complete majority to end the era of coalition governments that, he said, had affected development.
Thackeray trained his guns squarely on the BJP and said the alliance had been broken to save the Shiv Sena.
Raj held three rallies all in the island city: at Girgaum, Byculla and Lalbaug.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held two rallies in Vidarbha, including one in the state’s second capital, Nagpur.
So, the last Sunday before the polls saw television channels showing one live rally after the other with Thackeray and Modi competing for prime viewership.
Modi came down heavily on the Congress-NCP, claiming the two parties had destroyed the state in its 15-year rule and that it was time to boot them out.
“The Congress and the NCP did nothing for development of Maharashtra. They didn’t have the capacity. All they did was to keep changing the chief minister. This Assembly polls in Maharashtra will be the beginning of purification of politics in the state,” Modi said.
He avoided any mention of the Sena, but appealed for a clear mandate for his party. Making a pitch to the youth, he said, “In 50 years of their reign, the Congress and the NCP have done politics of caste, religion and region. It is now time to use the 65% youth power of our nation for development.”
“I am at the Centre. If you vote for our government, see how I change the face of the state by speeding up all stalled policies and development projects.”
In his sharpest criticism of the BJP so far, Uddhav compared it to the Mughal empire’s siege of the Deccan, and warned the party at his concluding rally at the BKC: “You have seen our love now face our wrath.”
“The Sena would have been finished had I agreed to a compromise with BJP,” said Uddhav, even as he dismissed allegations that it was his pursuit of the chief minister’s chair that broke the alliance. “Had it been the case, then why did the BJP break its alliance in Haryana?” He said like Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and Jayalalitha, he was also confident of making a mark without the BJP.
Both Raj and Rahul took on the BJP, accusing it of double standards.
Raj targeted the BJP for poaching candidates of different political hues just to win at any cost. Rahul accused Modi of paying respect to Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi, but following policies that went against their principles.
Rahul also slammed Modi over the Pakistani shelling. “See what is happening on the Indo-Pak border. Firing is taking place on the borders every day and people are dying while there is a gross border violation by the Chinese army,” he said.
Meanwhile, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar tried to control the damage caused by former home minister RR Patil’s remarks on rape by condemning them. He also heaped praise on Uddhav, causing a flutter in political circles.