The BJP-Shiv Sena combine is all set to regain power in Maharashtra with a landslide victory over the Congress-NCP alliance. If exit poll surveys are to be believed, the BJP is winning between 109-124 seats alone in 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly, while its alliance partner Shiv Sena could get anywhere between 57-70 seats. The Congress party and Sharad Pawar-led National Congress Party could get somewhere between 40-50 seats each. As per India Today-Axis-My-India exit poll, the BJP-Sena alliance could win between 166 and 194 seats, while the Congress-NCP alliance will manage around 72-90 seats. In 2014, the BJP had won 122 seats, while its ally won Shiv Sena on 63 seats, though both fought polls separately.
The 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections have made waves on two counts. This is the first time that someone from the Thackeray family is contesting an election -- Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's son Aaditya Thackeray. Secondly, neither the party founder Bal Thackeray nor his son Uddhav held any constitutional post. Polling for all 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra was held on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24. The state boasts over 8.9 crore eligible voters, of which the number of service voters stand at around 1.17 lakh.
This time, the main parties in the fray are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Here's all you need to know about the party positions, their poll promises and the key contestants to watch:
MahaYuti vs Maha-Aghadi
The Vidhan Sabha election in Maharashtra is a battle of two alliances - the BJP and Shiv Sena on one hand, and the Congress-NCP on the other. Several smaller parties have allied themselves with either of these two groups. For instance, Maha-Yuti (Grand Alliance), the ruling combine, also includes Republican Party of India (A), Shiv Sangram, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and Rayat Kranti Sanghatana. Similarly, the Peasants and Workers Party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, People's Republican Party and the Samajwadi Party are with Congress-NCP in the Maha-Aghadi camp.
Which side has an edge?
An analysis of Lok Sabha and assembly election results in Maharashtra over the past two decades reveals a mirrored pattern. In 2004, 2009 and 2014, the state polls were held just after the general elections while in 1999 they were held simultaneously, but voting patterns in each year were a near replica of the Lok Sabha results. If the pattern holds true, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance - which was able to win 41 of Maharashtra's 48 parliamentary seats (BJP 23, Shiv Sena 18) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections five months ago - is a sure winner on October 24.
BJP general secretary and in-charge for the assembly polls Bhupender Yadav had earlier expressed confidence that the Maha-Yuti alliance will come back to power with a thumping majority. "The BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra is in a very strong position and will get three-fourths majority in the state assembly elections," he told PTI.
The Congress, on the other hand, is not only beset with deep intra-party divisions among the senior leaders but is in the midst of an acute leadership crisis. The state leadership has stepped down to take responsibility for the debacle in the recent general elections, even as deserters abound. In short, far from ousting the majoritarian BJP-Shiv Sena government, these elections will test how united the Congress really is in a state where it was in power for three straight terms before 2014. Meanwhile, its ally NCP is contesting the assembly elections amid mounting heat from the Enforcement Directorate on its president Sharad Pawar.
The Congress-NCP combine has lost a lot of ground in the Konkan belt, a key battleground accounting for 75 assembly seats, or over 25 per cent of the total 288 constituencies. A number of sitting MLAs in this belt have crossed over to the BJP or the Shiv Sena since the April Lok Sabha elections, handing the saffron alliance an advantage at the hustings.
Which party is promising what
Although the BJP and the Shiv Sena are contesting the assembly polls together, the partners decided to have separate manifestos for the election since they did not agree on a few issues. The BJP's manifesto has promised to provide 5 crore jobs in the next five years and houses for all by 2022 along with making Maharashtra a $1 trillion economy. The party has also said it would seek prestigious Bharat Ratna for social activists and social reformers Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule, and Indian independence activist Veer Savarkar.
The BJP aims to create a Rs 16,000 crore worth Marathwada drinking water grid project in the next five years if it comes to power in the state, it's manifesto stated. In addition to a commitment to invest up to Rs 5 lakh crore in infrastructure projects in the state, the party has also promised to create a separate maintenance department to keep a tab of ongoing highway projects.
Previously, the Shiv Sena, which is contesting 124 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly election, also released its own manifesto or the Vachan Patra. In it, the party promised to make Maharashtra drought-free, provide more jobs, reduce pollution, and waive off farmer loans. Providing full meal at Rs 10, building all-weather roads connecting villages, formation of trained groups at each district level to deal with natural disasters and the revival of stalled irrigation projects are other key electoral promises.
Significantly, the Shiv Sena manifesto did not talk about Maharashtra government's achievements even though the party was part of it since 2014 and held key portfolios in the state. Is this yet another sign of emerging fissures between the alliance partners?
The joint manifesto released by the Congress and NCP promises monthly allowances of Rs 5,000 to educated, unemployed youth, minimum monthly wages of Rs 21,000 to labourers and 100 per cent subsidy for drip irrigation. They also have a package of tax waivers for urban voters, having promised to waive property tax for houses up to 500 sq. ft in each of the 15 municipal corporation areas. Every district will get a super-specialty hospital if the combine is voted to power, while the hefty fines prescribed in the new Motor Vehicle Act for traffic offenders will be reduced. To tap rural voters, the combine also promises at least 200 days of job under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.One of the most prominent candidates in the fray were Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who led the BJP campaign in the state. He was squaring off from his home turf Nagpur South-West against Congress' Ashish Deshmukh. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil contested his maiden assembly poll from Kothrud in Pune, vying against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Kishor Shinde, who was being supported by NCP and Congress. The Worli seat in Mumbai also grabbed all eyeballs where Aaditya Thackeray made his electoral debut, contesting against his main NCP rival Suresh Mane.
Edited by Sushmita Agarwal