In the next three months, as the state faces civic elections, the political fortunes of four prominent leaders could be headed for a major change.
From November to February next year, 10 municipal corporations including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, 27 zilla parishads, around 192 municipal councils and 200-odd gram panchayats will go to polls. In political circles, these polls are considered to be a precursor to the 2014 assembly elections and will help gauge the mood of the voters and test the parties' strength at the grassroots level.
For leaders who are the face of their parties, these polls could be a battle for survival.
The elections will test the leadership of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, deputy chief minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar, Shiv Sena's executive president Uddhav Thackeray and his cousin, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.
The results of the polls, especially the Mumbai civic polls, could decide Chavan's fate in Maharashtra. Since Chavan's arrival from New Delhi, his mandate has been to clean up politics.
However, there has been speculation within political circles that he does not have the mettle to lead the party to victory in the polls. Political analysts say these elections will decide if he can be a mass leader.
"If the Congress does well, he has proven a point and stands to gain the confidence of the party's top brass," said B Venkatesh Kumar, political analyst.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar will also face a litmus test. "The stakes are really high for Ajit because there are many who are against him in the party itself. If NCP fails to do well, Ajit will find his leadership in the state party challenged," said Kumar.
The Thackeray cousins are also poised for a battle to win over the Marathi manoos.
The outcome of the Sena-ruled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections especially could be turning point in their fight.
Experts said if Raj manages to end the Sena's rule in the BMC, Uddhav's leadership abilities will be questioned and the party will be at its lowest ebb before the 2014 assembly polls. It could also lead to more Sena workers switching to the MNS.
"If he does well in these elections, Raj emerges as a big player in state politics and a clear contender to Bal Thackeray's legacy. If he fails, he still gets some time to introspect and return to the battlefield," said a Sena leader, who did not wish to be named.
The outcome of these elections could also indicate who the future leaders of the state are.