After the hectic poll campaign coming to an end, stage is all set for Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana on Wednesday, one of the biggest electoral tests after the Lok Sabha polls for Narendra Modi, who spearheaded a high-decibel BJP campaign to wrest power from the opposition in what promises to be a close contest.
Maharashtra will witness a five-cornered contest for the 288-member House while Haryana will face a triangular contest for 90- member house.
With long-standing political alliances crumbling, the poll will test the mettle of four major parties–Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena individually, with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena trying to emerge as the X factor in the keenly watched contest. The Congress-NCP combine has been ruling the state for 15 years.
In Maharashtra, Modi addressed 27 rallies, rare by a Prime Minister in a state Assembly election, in the absence of a BJP leader with pan-Maharashtra appeal, following the death of Union Minister Gopinath Munde in a car crash soon after Lok Sabha polls.
During his campaign blitzkrieg in Maharashtra, Modi attacked Congress and NCP for “colossal corruption” leading to state’s “ruin” while showcasing Gujarat’s development under him but steered clear of criticising BJP’s estranged ally of 25 years, Shiv Sena, with which the party snapped ties just before the elections.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi, reminded the voters of steps taken by the UPA government for social sector reforms and checking usurpation of tribal and farm land by unscrupulous industrialists.
Other estranged former allies–Congress and NCP—who called off their alliance after a 15-year shot at power in Maharashtra, largely avoided criticising each other and chose to train their guns on BJP and Modi, although Congress leaders sniffed a possible post-poll alliance between BJP and NCP.
Among the prominent candidates in the fray in Maharashtra, it includes former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, former Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, state BJP President Devendra Fadnavis and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Eknath Khadse.
Congress has fielded the largest number of 287 candidates, BJP has put up 280, Shiv Sena 282, NCP 278 and MNS 219
Haryana also witnessed a high pitched campaign by Modi addressing 11 election meetings with an aim of bringing BJP to power in the state on its own for the first time and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to ensure a third term for the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in the state.
The UPA Chairperson addressed three meetings including at Tosham in Bhiwani district.
The Congress is eyeing a win for the third time in a row, mainly banking on the development card while main opposition INLD is seeking to return to power after a decade of hiatus, banking on the charisma of its President Om Prakash Chautala and consolidation of the Jat vote, besides other factors.
Two new parties– former Union Minister Venod Sharma-led Jan Chetna Party and former MP Kuldeep Bishnoi led Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) are fighting the polls in alliance and both outfits will mainly bank on consolidation of the non-Jat votes.
Two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, son of veteran freedom fighter late Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, is seeking re-election from his Garhi Sampla Kiloi constituency in Rohtak district.
The INLD campaign was led by former Chief Minister and party supremo Om Parkash Chautala, who was out on bail on health grounds after being imprisoned in Tihar Jail at New Delhi in the teachers recruitment scam.
Besides 90 candidates each of the BJP and Congress, BSP, CPI and CPI-M have put up 87, 14 and 17 candidates respectively.
The main contestants include top guns like Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Surjewala (Congress), former Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala’s son Abhay, daughter-in-law Naina and grandson Dushyant (INLD), former Union Minister Venod Sharma and his wife Shakti Rani (HJCP-V), former MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, his wife Renuka and elder brother former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan (HJC-BL).
Other main candidates include Haryana BJP President Ram Bilas Sharma and Abhimanyu (BJP), Arvind Sharma (BSP) and Gopal Kanda (HLP), who was booked in the Geetika Sharma suicide case.
Counting of votes will be held on October 19.