Campaigning for the Maharashtra assembly polls came to a close on Saturday with Union Home Minister Amit Shah daring Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to declare that his party would restore provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir if voted to power. For the Opposition, NCP chief Sharad Pawar led the charge on the last day of campaigning, asking the people to teach those misusing power a lesson in the October 21 polls.
If the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was the pivot of BJP’s poll campaign, the Congress-NCP camp raised issues of economic slowdown and joblessness. The lacklustre canvassing by the Opposition was evident from the fact that Congress-NCP alliance — the principal opposition formation in the contest — not holding a single joint rally.
Besides Article 370, BJP’s promise to work towards a Bharat Ratna for Vinayak Damodar Savarkar figured frequently in PM Modi’s speeches. Modi linked Savarkar and Article 370 by saying that those who were angry at his government nullifying Article 370 used to “abuse and denigrate Veer Savarkar” and are now denying him a Bharat Ratna.
While PM targeted the Congress, he didn’t spare its ally NCP either. In Akola, PM Modi said “there used to be bomb blasts frequently” during the Congress-NCP rule. In an apparent reference to the probe against Praful Patel and his transactions related to the sister of late Iqbal Mirchi, Modi said the new developments indicated why the blast-accused had fled the country.
Congress harps on economic slowdown
Rahul Gandhi, who addressed only five rallies in Maharashtra, assailed the government over the slowdown in the economy, the cut in corporate tax along with the corporate loan waiver attack.
“Loans of how many farmers in Maharashtra have been waived off? You are silent. That means it has not been done. Now you think…India’s richest people, who are the owners of the media, you know the names… Ambani, Adani… there are 15-20 such people… Rs 5.5 lakh crore of their debt has been waived off,” Gandhi said at a rally in Latur.
Prominent candidates in the fray are chief minister Fadnavis and his predecessors from Congress, Ashok Chavan, who is in fray from Bhokar in Nanded district, and Prithviraj Chavan, who is seeking re-election from Karad South in Satara district.
In a first, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, son of Uddhav Thackeray, is contesting from Worli in Mumbai. The 29-year-old is the first Thackeray to make debut in electoral politics. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) is also contesting on a number of seats in the elections.
Out of the total 288 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, BJP is contesting on 164 seats while Sena has fielded candidates on 126 seats. On the other hand, the Congress has fielded 147 candidates and ally NCP 121.
Among other parties, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), led by Raj Thackeray, has fielded 101 candidates, the CPI 16, the CPM 8. The BSP has fielded candidates in 262 constituencies. A total of 1400 Independents are also in the poll fray.
2014 Maharashtra state Assembly election report card
In 2014 elections, BJP won 122 seats, Sena 63, Congress 42 and the NCP 41. Since then, two bye-elections were held due to the death of two legislators Krushna Ghoda (Palghar) and Bala Sawant (Bandra east). The Sena managed to retain both the seats.
The bypoll for Satara Lok Sabha constituency will also be held on October 21. Former NCP leader and sitting MP Udayanraje Bhosale is in the fray from the seat on a BJP ticket against Shriniwas Patil of the Congress-NCP combine.