MUMBAI: The October 15 elections for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly will be the first in over quarter of a century when major political parties will slug it out in the poll arena sans erstwhile alliance partners.
The last time Shiv Sena and BJP fought separately was before 1989 - the year their alliance was sealed and for Congress and NCP, it was before 1999 the year the Sharad Pawar-led party was formed.
The five main parties in fray - Congress, Shiv Sena, BJP, NCP and MNS -- are vying for votes and all of them are claiming to get majority on their own, without the need of post-poll alliances.
"If the Raj Thackeray-led MNS eats into Shiv Sena votes, then there is a possibility that BJP may emerge as the single largest party, followed by Sena, Congress and NCP in the order," according to political analyst Surendra Jondhale.
"The poll campaign has just begun. Let us see how it develops. It is too early to predict an outcome at this moment," Jondhale, a professor at the Mumbai University, said.
He said this election will provide each party an opportunity to expand their political base and also to identify their social base.
"We will also see a demarcation of urban and rural voters, a pattern will emerge on the issues that what voters in these belts feel," he said.
Four issues -- Marathi identity, Hindutva, corruption and development -- will be the major ones around which this election would be centred, Jondhale said.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to come and address poll rallies. We will know the impact of the 'Modi wave' after he addresses public rallies," he said adding, as far as political aspirations are concerned, voters are waiting for Modi to justify and deliver on his poll promises during Lok Sabha elections.
The concepts of political fidelity and party ideology were losing out to the lure of political interests and ambitions, as seen from the massive defections from various parties in last few days, Jondhale said.
A look at the Assembly elections after the Sena-BJP alliance was sealed in 1989 shows that the Bal Thackeray-Pramod Mahajan combine was bang on target in forging the tieup as the saffron partners went on to bag power in 1995.
In the 1990 polls, Congress had won 141, Sena 52 and BJP 42. Sharad Pawar was elected the chief minister.
In the 1995 polls, Congress won 80, Sena 73 and BJP 65 and Sena leader Manohar Joshi was elected the chief minister.
Congress went on to win highest of 75 seats in the 1999 polls, followed by NCP which won 58 seats, Sena 69 and BJP 56. Congress leader Vilasrao Deshmukh was elected chief minister.
Success was repeated by Congress in 2004 and 2009 state assembly polls as well where it won 69 and 82 seats respectively. In 2004, NCP had won 71 and Sena 62. Vilasrao Deshmukh was elected the chief minister.
In 2009 polls, NCP won 62, Sena 45 and BJP 46. Ashok Chavan of Congress was elected the chief minister.
A top functionary in the Prithviraj Chavan-led government said that it is difficult to guess which party will forge ahead as this is the first time in so many years that the voters will have to back an individual party rather than an alliance.