MUMBAI: As campaigning for the Maharashtra Assembly election drew to a close on Monday, Union Minister for Road Transport Nitin Gadkari became the top leader to have addressed the maximum number of campaign rallies in the run-up to the polls.
The former BJP president addressed the maximum of 104 rallies in 14 days, while Congress president Sonia Gandhi, with four rallies, addressed the minimum.
Maharashtra, which is witnessing a four-cornered contest after a gap of 15 years, is set to elect its new government on Wednesday. Personalised attacks on opponents was the highlight of the campaign and very few leaders talked about real issues in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the election a prestige issue. He has addressed 27 rallies in the state and mainly targeted Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stalwart Sharad Pawar. He christened the NCP as ‘Natural Corrupt Party’. He also said that the state needed a BJP Government with a clear majority so as to ensure Maharashtra’s further development.
The BJP, tactically, kept its president Amit Shah away from Mumbai and Thane to avoid polarisation of votes of Marathi speaking people, but Shah addressed 17 rallies in the state, mostly in rural areas.
Pawar,73, who addressed 55 rallies countered Modi by alleging that he was lowering the dignity of the PM’s post. “Modi should have focused on the Pakistan border firing instead of the election,” Pawar said.
For NCP, its former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was the most vocal with 80 rallies. In his campaign, Ajit tried to tarnish former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s clean image by demanding an inquiry into his act of clearing many files, stuck for four years, in the last two months.
Congress poster boy Chavan showed up at 40 rallies. He claimed that during the Congress regime Maharashtra gained numero uno position in the country.
In her four rallies, Sonia criticised Modi for neglecting national security. Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi, who visited eight places, was mostly in the limelight for calling Modi “vipaksha ke neta” (Opposition leader).
For the Shiv Sena, its chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya were the star campaigners. While Uddhav addressed 50 rallies, Aditya did road shows at 35 places. Hurt by the BJP’s break-up with the Sena, Uddhav’s main target was Modi and Shah. Uddhav created a sensation by equating Modi with Mughal lieutenant Afzal Khan. In his address, he promised that if voted to power, he would clear at least 50 projects in the state in two years.