Maharashtra to vote on October 15 after bitter campaign between BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP

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Maharashtra to vote on October 15
Mumbai, Oct 13: One of the most bitter, high-profile and mega-stakes campaign for coming to power in 13th Maharashtra assembly elections drew to a close Monday. The state votes Wednesday.

For the first time in decades, five mainstream parties were in the fray, besides many smaller parties and hordes of independents, all hoping to cash in on the voter sentiments.

The campaign ends Monday evening. Voting is scheduled Oct 15, between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., and counting will be taken up Oct 19 from 8 a.m. onwards, with the results expected by noon.

With an unprecedented over 4,000 candidates in the fray, the 8.25 crore voters are spoilt for choice in all the 288 assembly constituencies - and in Beed, the lone Lok Sabha constituency going for a by-poll.

They comprise the candidates from the main parties like Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

There are other parties too, like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, MIM (of Hyderabad), and scores of smaller parties, hundreds of rebels, independents and some casual candidates.

These include a generous dose of those with a criminal past, millionaires and paupers, semi-literates or illiterates, as well as relatives of political leaders.

Again for the first time, the campaign guns were fired by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi who held nearly three dozen rallies across the state's nook and corner, exhorting people to vote for the BJP.

Besides, there was a sustained campaign by Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, MNS chief Raj Thackeray, NCP President Sharad Pawar, Congress' ex-chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Congress got support from around two dozen rallies addressed by party President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

Modi was helped by several of his cabinet colleagues, chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states, BJP President Amit Shah and other top leaders.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh also unexpectedly helped with a strong endorsement of Modi and BJP, which the party hopes to encash by way of votes.

Unlike the past two elections (both Lok Sabha and assembly), the saffron and secular combines are fighting the elections solo.

The BJP snapped its 25-year old partnership with Shiv Sena Sep 25, and within an hour that day, the NCP broke its 15-year old ties with Congress, leading to bitterness, and blame-game.

Apparently disturbed by Modi's over-awing presence for so many rallies - the BJP conducted a total of 600 rallies, or more than two per assembly seat - the other four main parties virtually ganged-up to attack the prime minister and the BJP for ignoring the border developments to campaign in state elections.

Hoping to create history by bagging Maharashtra independently, Modi spared none - and none spared him, either.

In fact, the Thackeray cousins and Pawars openly questioned the prime minister's need to abandon national governance and border tensions over Maharashtra elections. But the BJP dismissed these contentions.

Again, taking a cue from Modi that the days of coalition politics era is over, all the five parties unanimously sought "a clear mandate" from the people to run the government without internal pressures.

The campaign tones were varied with divine figures, saints, historical figures (Chhatrapati Shivaji, Afzal Khan, Adil Shah, Aurangzeb), animals (dogs, cats), reptiles (rats, snakes), invoked liberally by the campaigners to show their one-upmanship over rivals.

Candidates leaned on social networking sites during campaigning. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS, emailers were used extensively to bombard the harangued voter already reeling under the cacophony of public meetings, marches, street-corner assemblies, door-to-door campaign, print and electronic media ads and editorial.

Thousands of alcohol bottles and other articles were seized across Maharashtra.

IANS

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