Gandhinagar, 21 May-2014(ANI): Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi met Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal at her residence…
NEW DELHI(PTI): Maharashtra and Haryana are all set to go to polls on Wednesday to elect their assemblies in high-stakes elections seen as the first major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Lok Sabha polls as he pitched for BJP coming to power on its own in both the states.
This will also be the first elections in Maharashtra after established political formations — Shiv Sena-BJP and Cong-NCP — crumbled and the parties will be contesting alone after 15 years. Congress and NCP had ruled the state for 15 continuous years from 1999.
In Haryana too, the BJP junked its allies and plumped for majority on its own to dislodge Congress that had been ruling the state for the last 10 years.
The polling will begin at 7 AM and conclude at 6 PM. Counting of votes will be held on October 19.
The high stakes in the elections could be seen from the fact that Modi addressed 38 rallies in a period of 10 days in both the states in a campaign that virtually became Modi versus the rest.
The Congress campaign in both the states was spearheaded by party president Sonia Gandhi while for the NCP it was Sharad Pawar and for Shiv Sena it was father-son combination of Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya.
Five-cornered contest in Maharashtra
Maharashtra will witness a five-cornered contest for the 288-member House. An electorate of about 8.25 crore can choose from 4,119 candidates in the fray, including 1,699 Independents.
While Congress has fielded the largest number of 287 candidates, BJP has put up 280, Shiv Sena 282, NCP 278 and MNS 219.
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.
Modi addressed 27 rallies, rare by a Prime Minister in an Assembly election, in the absence of a BJP leader with pan-Maharashtra appeal. The death of Union Minister Gopinath Munde in a car crash soon after Lok Sabha polls deprived BJP of a popular face in the elections. His daughter Pankaja, contesting from Parli, is seen as the rising star in state politics.
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 election.
Prominent candidates in Maharashtra: Former Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and former ministers R R Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal of NCP, Devendra Fadnavis, Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde of BJP, Subhash Desai, Suresh Jain and Deepak Kesarkar of Shiv Sena, former ministers Patangrao Kadam, Shivajirao Moghe and Rajendra Darda of Congress and Bala Nandgaonkar of MNS.
BJP Banking on Modi in Haryana
In Haryana, about 1.63 crore voters, including 87.37 lakh women are eligible to vote at 16,357 polling stations to decide the fate of 1,351 candidates, including 109 women.
Modi criss-crossed Haryana addressing 11 election meetings at Sirsa, Gurgaon, Jind, Jagadhari, Sonipat and Rohtak.
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.
Chautala’s outing was cut short after the CBI approached the Delhi High Court, saying that the INLD chief was violating the bail terms by addressing election meetings.
The INLD leader was asked to surrender before the Tihar Jail authorities and he was back in prison on Saturday evening.
The campaign in Haryana saw the Prime Minister targeting Congress exploiting the controversy surrounding the land deals involving Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, saying it symbolised the corruption of 10 years of Congress regime. He sought a majority for BJP, saying a hung assembly will serve no one’s interest.
The top guns battling it out in Haryana include the kin of the three famous ‘Lals’.
Unlike in the recent past, when the fight was mainly between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players threw their hats in the ring this time.
Besides 90 each candidates of the BJP and Congress, BSP, CPI and CPI-M have put up 87, 14 and 17 candidates respectively.
Prominent candidates in Haryana: 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 and former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan (HJC-BL).