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Maharashtra braces for polls
Mumbai/New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS/Agencies)
Published on 10 Oct. 2009 11:08 PM IST
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The stage is set for the Oct 13 assembly elections in Maharashtra where the ruling Congress-led alliance faces a stiff challenge from the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine for the control of one of India’s most industrialized states. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) say they are confident of retaining power in the state they have ruled for 10 long years. The BJP and Shiv Sena are equally determined to unseat the Congress-NCP coalition. Although Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh will also see elections Oct 13, it is Maharashtra whose outcome will be keenly watched. In 2004, the Congress and NCP won 139 seats in the 288-member assembly. The Shiv Sena and BJP finished with 119 seats while smaller groups as well as independents secured 30 seats. This time, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has cast a long shadow on the Shiv Sena and BJP. For the Congress, the Republican-Left alliance is a worry. With his penchant for aggression, Raj Thackeray is giving sleepless nights to the Shiv Sena. In this year’s Lok Sabha elections, the MNS undercut the Shiv Sena and BJP in at least 10 Lok Sabha constituencies. The elections will be a credibility test for Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who took charge of Maharashtra after the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai. Others also need to prove their worth. A victory for the BJP would catapult Gopinath Munde, who is spearheading the party’s campaign, to the coveted position once enjoyed by his brother-in-law, the late Pramod Mahajan. For Shiv Sena’s Udhav Thackeray, this is the first assembly election in which he will compete less with the ruling combine than his own estranged cousin Raj Thackeray. Electoral success will firm up the leadership of Udhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena where his detractors are now quiet because of the still-charismatic personality of his iconic father Bal Thackeray. A total of 3,559 candidates, including 211 women, are in the fray. There will be over 84,000 polling booths. In the absence of clear and credible issues, the elections are being fought around individual personalities. And many are calling one another names -- frogs, snakes, insects, worms. Farmland deaths, floods, drought, security and price rise have been relegated to the backburnder. Hopefully, the 77 million voters might remember these before clicking the relevant buttons on the electronic voting machines Tuesday. Cong facing dilemma on alliance with NCP OCT 10 With a month to go for Maharashtra Assembly polls, Congress is facing a dilemma on continuance of its alliance with NCP as a group in the party led by a union minister wanting the leadership to dump that party and go it alone in the elections. A decision by Congress President Sonia Gandhi is expected to be made anytime now amid a keen tussle in the party over the issue of alliance. Union Minister and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is leading the group which wants the NCP to be dumped. The Lok Sabha election results in the state in which the Congress secured 17 and the NCP mere eight seats is reason enough for the party to think afresh, say the Congress detractors of Pawar. This section feels that there is a “remote” possibility about the alliance continuing in view of the changed dynamics after the Lok Sabha elections. The delimitation exercise has also changed the profile of the constituencies. The anti-alliance group feels that the Lok Sabha polls showed that Pawar was facing a tough time in his stronghold of Western Maharashtra and, therefore, it is time to to reclaim the sugar rich region, which is dominant in state politics. Cong expels 4 rebels Maharashtra Congress has expelled four rebels including former Risod MP Anantrao Deshmukh, for contesting or campaigning against Congress-NCP-RPI (Gawai) allaince’ official candidates in the October 13 Assembly polls. Besides Mr Deshmukh, the other expelled leaders include Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress (Arvi) general secretary Priya Shinde, Khed taluka Panchayat Samiti (Khed-Alandi) chairman Ramdas Thakur and Ratnagiri District Congress committee (Dapoli) member Dili Jagtap, a Party release issued here today said. All these rebels have been expelled from the party for six years following orders of MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre, the release added.

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