Billionaires, Actors, Farmers to Vote in Maharashtra
Billionaires, slum-dwellers, film stars, tribals, fisherfolk, farmers and migrants will decide the fate of 338 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections in 19 constituencies that go to the polls in the third and final phase here Thursday.
Around 31.7 million voters will exercise their franchise at 43,343 polling stations in the 19 constituencies spread across coastal and northern Maharashtra, including the six in Mumbai.
In Mumbai, the country's commercial capital, the Congress's best ever performance since 1977 was witnessed in 2009, when its alliance bagged all the six Lok Sabha (city) seats, including one by ally Nationalist Congress Party.
It was matched once by the Bharatiya Janata Party and ally Shiv Sena, which bagged three seats each in 1996.
However, given the current dynamics, the Congress-NCP's reputation and record will be put to severe test this time. But both the parties are hoping to repeat the 2009 feat.
It's a tall order, given historic and other considerations which mould the minds of the Mumbai voters where there has not been a single occasion since 1977 when any single party has won all the six city seats.
Way back in 1977, when 48 constituencies were carved out in the state, at the height of the Janata Party alliance wave, the Bharatiya Lok Dal secured five and CPI-M got one seat in Mumbai.
In 1980, it was the turn of the Janata Party to bag five seats and the Congress one.
In 1984, at the height of the sympathy wave following Indira Gandhi's assassination, the Congress won five seats - and surprisingly, one went to an independent.
In 1989 with Rajiv Gandhi at the helm, the Congress came down to two, the Bharatiya Janata Party two, and the Shiv Sena and an independent got one each.
The Congress doubled its tally in 1991 to four, while the BJP and the Shiv Sena were content with one each.
The situation reversed in 1996 with the BJP and the Shiv Sena alliance securing three seats each.
In 1998, the Congress bounced back with two, its ally RPI got one, the Shiv Sena came down to two and the BJP was relegated to one seat.
In 1999, the Congress again suffered a reverse with just one seat, the BJP climbed to three and the Shiv Sena stood at two seats.
Then in 2004, the Congress put up a spectacular performance with five seats while the Shiv Sena retained one.
It was the next election in 2009 when the Congress and its ally NCP put up their best performance together since 1977 by jointly bagging all the six city seats.
Needless to say, none of the major parties in the race are leaving any stone unturned to at least cling to their present (seat) positions, while the BJP-Shiv Sena combine is expecting to turn the tables on all the others.
Besides the four main parties in the reckoning, there are the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, which are contesting all the 19 (third phase) seats and could eat into some votes, besides the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which is contesting 10 seats.
The big names in the race include union Minister of State for Shipping Milind Deora, former union minister and AICC general secretary Gurudas Kamat, former journalist Sanjay Nirupam, Priya Dutt (all from the Congress in Mumbai) and Nandurbar's strongman Manikrao Gavit.
The other star candidates include the NCP's Chhagan Bhujbal in Nashik and Sunil Tatkare in Raigad, the Shiv Sena's Anant Gite in Raigad, the BJP's Kirit Somaiya in Mumbai North-East, Poonam Mahajan in Mumbai North-Central and Heena Gavit in Nandurbar, AAP whistle-blower Vijay Pandhare in Nashik and Medha Patkar in Mumbai North-East and the Samajwadi Party's Farhan A. Azmi in Mumbai North-Central.
After the encouraging voter turnout in the first two phases - April 10 for 10 Lok Sabha seats, April 17 for 19 seats and another 19 seats April 24 - all parties are aggressively campaigning to snare their share of votes in the final phase.
In Mumbai, the 'in-thing' for candidates appears to be getting the public support of top industrialists, businessmen, film stars, television celebrities, et al.
However, the recent development of at least six million names deleted from the state voters' list has unnerved all parties, especially in the constituencies where the winning margins were very thin in 2009.
Its impact was already seen in the first two phases and parties and candidates are keeping their fingers crossed for the final phase.
The 19 constituencies going to the polls are Aurangabad, Bhiwandi, Dindori, Dhule, Jalgaon, Jalna, Kalyan, Mumbai North, Mumbai North-West, Mumbai North-East, Mumbai North-Central, Mumbai South-Central, Mumbai South, Nandurbar, Nashik, Palghar, Raver, Raigad and Thane.