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Maharashtra all set for another poll battle

Maharashtra all set for another poll battle
Highlights

On October 21, Maharashtra will head to polls to elect a new Legislative Assembly.

On October 21, Maharashtra will head to polls to elect a new Legislative Assembly. Normally fiercest battle is witnessed in Maharashtra between the BJP-Shiv Sena combine and other major parties like the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Sharad Pawar.

The NCP has always been a major force particularly in the western Maharashtra which is dotted by sugar cane fields. But this time the battle is not so fierce. it appears that the tide is ebbing for the NCP stalwart Sharad Pawar.

Some of those top leaders who could tilt the balance in favour of the NCP like the Bhosales in Satara, Mohite Patil of Solapur, Rashmi Bagal, Jayakumar Gore and the Mahadik family in Kolhapur are among those who had switched loyalties from the NCP to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

Though Pawar has been indulging in pep talk to keep the cadre in high spirits saying that he still is capable of sending people to Assembly and that he would prop up youth to win the elections, the fact is that like all regional party satraps, he too did not allow youth to come up in the party all these years.

When he himself was young leader in early 1978 and had quit the Congress and joined Congress (U) under the leadership of his mentor Yashwant Rao Chavan when the Congress led by Indira Gandhi had split, he was a champion of youth leaders.

But as his long political journey took many turns, he at a later stage returned to the Congress fold. Again in 1999, after the 12th Lok Sabha was dissolved and elections to the 13th Lok Sabha were called, Pawar, P A Sangma, and Tariq Anwar demanded, at the Congress party working committee (CWC) meeting to propose someone native-born as the prime ministerial candidate and not the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, who had entered party politics and replaced Sitaram Kesri as Congress president.

The party duly expelled the three, and as a response in June 1999, Pawar and Sangma founded the Nationalist Congress Party. However, nothing was done by him to encourage youngsters in NCP.

On the other hand, the BJP which buried its differences with Shiv Sena had proved to be successful in creating cracks within the bastion of the the grand old leader and this time is confident that it will win some seats in Western Maharashtra.

The joining of Udayanraje Bhosale, who is the 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji and his cousin Shivendraraje seems to be turning the scales in favour of the saffron party. These two leaders have a strong hold over the Satara region.

This has created a do or die situation for the NCP. The Congress, which had won few seats from this region in 2014 is now finding it difficult to retain them. The Congress in Maharashtra is faced with internal differences and it is alleged that a conspiracy within the party is on as people working closely with AICC acting president Sonia Gandhi had shown bias in giving tickets to candidates who would be losing their deposits.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too addressed public meetings and explained why his government had decided to scrap Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. This battle has now turned into a battle between PM Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as the star campaigners of the BJP and the Congress.

While Modi will address two rallies in Jalgaon and Bhandara, Gandhi is set for three rallies — one in Latur and two in Mumbai. In the run-up to the election, defections to the BJP have happened in almost every constituency. This is likely to have a major impact on the outcome in many seats.

Another interesting factor this time is Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's son and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray will be the first member from this family to enter electoral politics. He is contesting from Worli Assembly constituency in Mumbai.

Finally, it is going to be a battle between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, commonly known as 'Maha-Yuti' and the Congress-NCP's 'Maha-Aghadi'.

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