What the parties’ star campaigners choose to do on the final day of electioneering is often indicative of the mood among party workers and of which seats could see close contests.
Narendra Modi, for instance, was backing the BJP candidate against Konkan strongman Narayan Rane’s son in Kankavli because there’s every chance that this is the Ranes’ toughest election yet. And former CM Prithviraj Chavan completed his biggest ever roadshow in Karad South, a show of strength in an election that is a prestige battle for him as well as for the Congress.
A SEAT TO REGAIN
Modi addressed one of his rallies in Ratnagiri, traditionally a BJP bastion until the last two elections, when the NCP wrested the seat. This time, Surendra Bal Mane, who was elected in 1999, is pitted against the Sena’s Uday Samant, former NCP legislator and urban development minister. Of the five seats in Ratnagiri district, three are Sena bastions. The Ratnagiri seat is one where the BJP sees a chance of defeating its former ally.
Modi vs Narayan Rane
HIGH STAKES FOR BOTH
Both leaders addressed rallies in Kankavli. The seat has been with the BJP for over two decades, but is part of the region where Rane wields his clout. And both sides face competition. In 2009, the BJP’s Pramod Jattar had clinched the seat by a mere 34 votes, with the runner-up being Congress candidate Ravindra Pathak. This time without the Sena to drum up support and with the BJP’s biggest challenger being Rane’s son Nitesh, retaining this seat is going to take some effort.
Rane himself is set to face a tough fight in the adjoining Kudal constituency. Kankavli seems to present a relatively better prospect for Nitesh against Jattar. Nitesh, who runs the NGO Swabhiman, is a first-time candidate. After his elder brother Nilesh’s crushing defeat from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha constituency, Nitesh is the family’s primary hope for retaining its sway over the region.
Modi mocked the clan: “The father comes to power and asks his children to take care of a few districts. If the fate of Konkan and Sindhudurg has to change, then ensure that the BJP government comes to power.”
ENDING WITH A BANG
With disgruntled Congress leaders making former chief minister Chavan’s election bid from Karad South in western Maharashtra a tight squeeze, the Congress top gun spent the final day of campaigning in his own constituency. It was a show of strength for Chavan as he drove through narrow lanes and bylanes amid massive crowds. Chavan also addressed a public rally before loudspeakers went silent.
With the BJP’s plans to deploy Modi in Karad South having not worked out, state BJP leader Vinod Tawde, who is himself contesting from Mumbai’s Borivali, campaigned on the former CM’s turf. The Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray too was in Karad South on the final day.
The state BJP president, seen by many as a chief ministerial candidate, was in Yavatmal of Vidarbha, calling for parivartan. Setting out early from Nagpur, he toured urban and rural constituencies and highlighted agriculture-based issues in the district that has seen the highest number of farmer suicides in the last 15 years. The second half of his day was at Chandwad in north Maharashtra. The highlight of his campaign there related to problems of onion and grape farmers. Fadnavis wound up his day with six rallies in Vidarbha and north Maharashtra ahead of the 5 pm deadline. Overall, he addressed 120 rallies in 18 days.
REGION BY REGION
Sharad Pawar held a public rally in the sugar belt of Ahmednagar, a loyal NCP bastion, where the party faces a threat from rebels. He also addressed rallies in Junnar, where the NCP’s Vallabh Benke is the sitting legislator, and Baramati, represented by his nephew Ajit Pawar, who remained in his constituency. Sharad’s daughter Supriya Sule campaigned in the Pune region.
Uddhav and Aditya
TAKING ON BJP
Uddhav Thackeray held three rallies in north Maharashtra. One was in Dhule, where the party is struggling. Another was in Jalgaon in support of Suresh Jain, who is recontesting from behind bars. The third was in the constituency of senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, who has been accused by many Sainiks of being instrumental in breaking the Sena-BJP alliance.
Uddhav’s son Aditya, apart from travelling to Karad South, also held rallies in western Maharashtra’s Sangli, Icchalkaranji and Khanapur. These constituencies have been strongholds of the BJP as well as the Congress.
He stepped out only for a brief interaction with journalists in the afternoon.