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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Political bigwigs give final push to poll campaign in Maharashtra

Run up to the state assembly election was marked by dissension within BJP-Sena; desertions from NCP.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 20, 2019 03:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah addresses an election campaign rally.
Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah addresses an election campaign rally.(PTI)

Political bigwigs hit the road on the last day of campaigning in Maharashtra which goes to polls on October 21. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray held roadshows in their respective constituencies of Nagpur south west and Worli, Mumbai, while Union home minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath addressed rallies in North Maharashtra’s Nandurbagh and Mumbai respectively. Union ministers Smriti Irani and Nitin Gadkari canvassed in different parts of the state while Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar held a string of public meetings in western Maharashtra.

Shah invoked Article 370 and said it helped Pakistan create terrorism in Kashmir. He also dared Congress and NCP to revoke their decision if comes to power. “Article 370 helped Pakistan in creating terrorism in Pakistan. Congress chose to oppose it (due to) vote bank politics. But Modi government dared to eliminate it,” Shah said in Navapur, a Congress bastion.

The elections were marked by large scale dissensions in the rank and file of the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Shiv Sena, both of which are in an alliance in the state, with many candidates who were denied tickets contesting as Independents. Several legislators of the Congress and the NCP switched sides to the ruling BJP and Sena. In a first, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, son of Uddhav Thackeray, will contest from Worli in Mumbai. The 29-year-old is the first Thackeray to make debut in electoral politics.

Prominent Congress candidates in the fray are former CMs Ashok Chavan from Bhokar in Nanded and Prithviraj Chavan, who is seeking re-election from Karad South in Satara. The counting of votes will be conducted on October 24 and result will be declared the same day. Ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is in a direct flight with Congress-NCP led Opposition Front for 288 seats in Maharashtra assembly.

Videos of Pawar’s Friday rally in Satara — held even as it rained — became viral on social media. On Saturday too, Pawar addressed a rally while it was raining, canvassing for his grandnephew Rohit Pawar who is contesting from the Karjat Jamkhed seat. Seeking votes for the party’s candidates contesting the Lok Sabha by-election as well as the assembly poll in Satara, Pawar admitted that he had erred while selecting Udayanraje Bhonsale as the NCP candidate for the Lok Sabha election. “I am here to admit that I made a mistake during the recently held Lok Sabha elections and I am sure each and every person of Satara is waiting to rectify that mistake on October 21.” Udayanraje Bhonsle resigned from the Lok Sabha and NCP within four months after the general elections and joined the BJP. Bhonsle is also a three-time MP from the Satara seat.

The campaign for state polls was dominated by BJP’s narrative that pivoted on the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Rahul Gandhi addressed six rallies in the state, highlighting issues like the economic slowdown, unemployment, “failure” of demonetisation exercise and Goods and Services Tax rollout.