New Delhi, Oct 15: The real test for Narendra Modi government would be sealed in the ballot boxes on Wednesday, as the voting has begun for the Assemblies of Maharashtra and Haryana. The Congress too is determined to retain its grip in both the states after its severe drubbing in the general elections.
These assembly elections are also an acid test for the BJP under the leadership of Amit Shah and the charismatic face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led the marathan campaign to lead from the front.
More than 10 crore people will vote across 288 assembly constituencies in Maharashtra and 90 constituencies in Haryana.
A victory for BJP in Haryana would prevent a rival from controlling Chandigarh while wresting Mantralaya in Maharashtra after snubbing 25-year-old ally Shiv Sena would be a big boost to the protagonists of new era in the party.
The fate of 1,351 candidates will be sealed by 1.63 crore voters in the multi-cornered contest in Haryana, with top guns including the kin of the three famous ‘Lals’ battling it out in the state.
Haryan’s 1.63 crore voters, including 87.37 lakh women, will decide the fate of 1,351 candidates, including 109 women, in 16,357 polling stations.
The main contestants include top guns like Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Surjewala (Congress), former Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala’s son Abhay, daughter-in-law Naina and grandson Dushyant (INLD), former Union Minister Venod Sharma and his wife Shakti Rani (HJCP-V), former MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, his wife Renuka and elder brother former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan (HJC-BL).
Other main candidates include Haryana BJP President Ram Bilas Sharma and Abhimanyu (BJP), Arvind Sharma (BSP) and Gopal Kanda (HLP), who was booked in the Geetika Sharma suicide case.
Unlike in the recent past, when the fight has mainly been limited between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players have thrown their hats in the ring this time.
Besides Congress and INLD, BJP is trying to come to power on its own for the first time since the formation of Haryana in 1966.
Apart from banking on the anti-incumbency factor, the BJP is hoping that the “Modi factor” will work in its favour like in the Lok Sabha, in which it got seven of the eight seats it contested from Haryana.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi aggressively campaigned for the BJP in Haryana appealing the voters to give the party a chance to take the state on path of development.
The Congress is eyeing a win for the third time in a row, mainly banking on the development card while main opposition INLD is seeking to return to power after a decade of hiatus, banking on the charisma of its President Om Prakash Chautala and consolidation of the Jat vote, besides other factors.
With the breaking of the two main political alliances, Shiv Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP, Mahrashtra assembly is heading towards a fractured mandate. After a 25-year alliance with the Sena, the decision to go it alone is a gamble for the BJP. But its show in the 2009 assembly polls and the recent Lok Sabha election gives it hope.
Maharashtra has not seen such intense multi-polar fights in decades. Congress (NCP was formed in 1999), BJP and Shiv Sena last fought independently in 1985. Sena and BJP came together in 1989 and came to power in 1995.
In 2009, the party won 46 of the 119 assembly seats contested, the Sena won 44 of 160. In the general election four months ago, it won 23 of Maharashtra’s 48 Lok Sabha seats. The Sena won 18.
The BJP is heavily banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has addressed 27 rallies in the state. The party is banking upon strong anti-incumbency factor and the corruption charges against the NCP and the Congress, which had been in power for 15 years.
If the party manages to win the front runners for the Chief Minister’s post are state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis and senior leader Eknath Khadse.
(With Agency Inputs)