Maharashtra is set to elect a fresh Legislative Assembly on 21 October. The election will be held in a single-phase for 288 of 289 seats. One seat belongs to a nominated member. A total of 3,239 candidates are in the fray for the polls where the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and the Congress-NCP combine are locked in keen contests marked by defections and rebellions.
The Election Commission had received 5,543 applications for all the 288 segments. A total of 3,239 nominees are no longer in the race after withdrawals and rejection of 800 applications due to technical errors.
Here are some of the prominent faces who will be contesting the election:
Devendra Fadnavis " BJP
Perhaps one of the most salient Assembly seats for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance both in terms of prestige for the parties and that of the candidate, is Nagpur South West, from where Devendra Fadnavis has been elected since 2009.
In the 2009 polls, Fadnavis contested on a BJP ticket and won with 89,258 votes against Congress' Vikas Pandurang Thakre who netted 61,483 votes. Fadnavis retained the seat in 2014 garnering 1,13,918 votes. The vote difference (58,942 votes) between Fadnavis and the runner-up candidate Prafulla V Gudadhe was more than what Gudadhe received (54,976 votes).
This year, there are a total of 20 candidates in the fray from this seat. Congress has fielded former BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh, who subsequently crossed over to the grand old party, against Fadnavis. Deshmukh is a strong supporter of the demand for statehood for Vidarbha.
Aaditya Thackeray " Shiv Sena
The entry of Aaditya Thackeray, first from his family to take the poll plunge, has made Mumbai's Worli the most talked-about seat. All eyes will be on how the Yuva Sena chief fares. While the Shiv Sena leader is widely expected to win, political observers say the number of votes polled and the victory margin will matter more as the seat is considered a bastion of the party, led by his father Uddhav Thackeray.
Twenty-nine-year-old Aaditya, whom his party wants to be the deputy chief minister if the BJP-Sena alliance retains power, is pitted against the Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) nominee Suresh Mane, a Dalit leader.
While the Sena nominee has been trying to make a mark in politics by conducting roadshows, foot marches and raising issues like cutting of trees in Aarey Colony and Mumbai's nightlife, the NCP says its candidate is more aware of local issues as he hails from Worli.
Mane said that since the constituency spans from Haji Ali shrine to Worli seaface, Koliwada, Prabhadevi, Elphistone, Arthur Road jail and Mahalaxmi, he is conducting foot marches to reach out to a mix of Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Telugu and Dalit voters.
Ashok Chavan " Congress
Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan has been fielded to contest from Bhokar Assembly seat. The Congress leader will lock horns with BJP's Bapusaheb Gorthekar. The Marathas constitute a significant proportion of the population of Bhokar in Nanded district. The political preferences of the community are expected to be a major factor in the election. Bhokar has been by and large won by the Congress since 1960. It has given the state two chief ministers, the father-son duo, Shankarrao and Ashok Chavan.
In the 2014 general elections, despite allegations of corruption and facing an anti-incumbency wave, Chavan won from the Nanded constituency with a comfortable margin. The former chief minister is also the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Chavan ended up losing to BJP's Pratap Patil Chikhalikar.
Prithviraj Chavan " Congress
Another former chief minister of Maharashtra and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has been fielded from Karad South constituency.
Initially, Prithviraj's name was missing in the first list as the party wanted him to contest the by-election for Satara Lok Sabha seat. The polls was necessitated after the resignation of incumbent NCP MP Udayanraje Bhosale, who jumped ship to the BJP.
Prithviraj declined the offer and said he wanted to focus on the state Assembly elections instead.
Ajit Pawar " NCP
NCP leader and former state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as MLA, is seeking a re-election from Baramati, a prominent constituency in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra. The BJP is making a fresh bid to make a dent into the Pawar family's stronghold of Baramati by picking holes in the NCP's development claims.
Pawar had resigned from his post as Baramati MLA recently. He said that he did so in keeping with his "conscience" after his uncle and party chief Sharad Pawar's name was embroiled in the alleged MSC Bank scam.
While the BJP is highlighting water scarcity and bad condition of roads in the Baramati segment located in Pune district, the NCP, which harps on development brought by it, is taking the saffron challenge lightly, saying it faces "no contest" at all. The saffron party has pinned its hopes on Gopichand Padalkar, a Dhangar (shepherd) community leader.
Chandrakant Patil " BJP
Protecting the environment, improving public transport and ensuring safety and security of senior citizens are the key promises made by Maharashtra BJP unit president Chandrakant Patil in his "manifesto" for the Kothrud constituency, from where he is contesting. He also promised setting up of a "cultural university" in the urban constituency.
Patil also sought to downplay criticism of the BJP government in Shiv Sena mouthpiece, "Saamana" and claimed new entrants to the BJP will have to follow the party ideology.
Patil is pitted against MNS candidate Kishore Shinde, who is backed by the Congress and the NCP.
With inputs from agencies