The much-hyped assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana began this morning amidst tight security arrangements. The Congress-NCP had been in power in Maharashtra for the last 15 years, while Congress has been in power in Haryana for the last 10 years.
In Maharashtra, all five major parties – BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP and MNS are fighting the polls separately. The 25-year-old alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena ended just two days before the last day of filing nomination papers. An hour later, the 15-year-old alliance Congress and NCP too came to an end.
All opinion polls have predicted huge gains for the BJP in Maharashtra. However, some of them have predicted a hung assembly in the state. In Haryana, the main fight is between the BJP and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). INLD leader OP Chautala, who is in jail in corruption charges, campaigned for the party after securing bail on health grounds. The BJP is banking on ‘Modi Wave’ to win Maharashtra and Haryana. The Prime Minister held a series of rallies in both states to woo the voters.
The strength of Maharashtra Assembly is 288. The Congress has fielded 287 candidates, while the BJP and its allies (23 seats) are contesting (on Lotus symbol) on 280 seats. Shiv Sena has fielded 282 candidates, followed by NCP (278) and MNS (219). An electorate of about 8.25 crore will choose from 4,119 candidates. In Haryana, about 1.63 crore voters will decide the fate of 1,351 candidates, including 109 women. The strength of Haryana Assembly is 90.
The bypolls are also being held in two Lok Sabha seats – Kandhamal (Odisha) and Beed (Maharashtra). The elections were necessitated in these seats following the untimely death of Gopinath Munde (BJP – Beed) and Hemendra Chandra Singh (BJD – Kandhamal).