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Campaigning for polls in Haryana, Maharashtra ends

Shakti Kapoor campaigns

New Delhi: The high-voltage campaign in the October 15 Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra came to an end this evening as Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his offensive against Congress and other rivals who gave back in equal measure.

The dust and din came to an end at 5 PM when the loudspeakers went silent as political parties asked their cadre to get on with the job of door-to-door campaign for persuading the voters.

Egged on by the massive mandate he got in the Lok Sabha elections just five months ago, Modi unleashed a poll blitzkrieg addressing over 30 rallies in the two states where he took on the opposition over dynastic politics and corruption.

With no local face in Maharashtra which has 288 seats and Haryana which has 90 seats, the BJP banked heavily on Modi for campaigning, especially in Maharashtra where it split with its long term ally, the Shiv Sena.

While he avoided any criticism of Shiv Sena, Modi came down heavily on both the Congress and NCP, saying they were highly corrupt and had looted the state for the last 15 years.

Congress on the other hand projected Prithviraj Chavan while NCP Ajit Pawar and Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray.

With Wednesday’s polling in the two states being seen as the first key test of popularity for major political parties after the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP left nothing to chance with Modi addressing over 20 rallies in Maharashtra and 10 in Haryana. Counting of votes will be taken up on Sunday.

The October 15 elections for the Maharashtra Assembly will be the first in over quarter of a century when major political parties are out in the poll arena sans erstwhile alliance partners.

The BJP is contesting 257 seats while its smaller allies are contesting on 31. Congress and NCP are contesting on all the seats. Some candidates from other parties are contesting on Congress symbol.

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 main issues which parties highlighted in Maharashtra were Marathi identity, Hindutva, corruption and development.

In the 2009 polls, Cong won 82, NCP won 62, Sena 45 and BJP 47 and MNS 12. Ashok Chavan of Congress was elected the chief minister.

While Congress banked on the development plank, Shiv Sena projected itself as one with a “real identity” of Maharashtra. The BJP was unsparing in its attacks on the Congress-NCP on the issue of corruption with Modi asking the electorate to “puni sh” the Congress and NCP which “looted” the people.

The campaign in Haryana saw the Prime Minister targeting Congress exploiting the controversy surrounding the land deals involving Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, saying it symbolised the corruption of 10 years of Congress regime. He sought a majority for BJP, saying a hung assembly will serve no one’s interest.

The other top guns battling it out in Haryana are the kin of the three famous ‘Lals’ including jailed former Chief Minister O P Chautala.

Unlike in the recent past, when the fight was mainly between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players threw their hats in the ring this time.

However, Congress, BJP and INLD are being seen as the main players, with all three hoping to capture power on their own.

BJP for the first time in the history of Haryana, which was carved out as a separate state in 1966, is contesting on all the 90 seats on its own.

Two new parties—- former Union Minister Venod Sharma-led Haryana Jan Chetna Party (HJCP) and Independent MLA Gopal Kanda’s Haryana Lokhit Party—-, besides BSP, Haryana Janhit Congress and the Left parties are also trying their luck.

Two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, son of veteran freedom fighter late Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, is seeking re-election from his Garhi Sampla Kiloi constituency in Rohtak district.

The Chief Minister is faced with the challenge of leading Congress to a third-time win in a row in the wake of anti-incumbency and other factors.

Throughout his campaign in Haryana, the Prime Minister asked the people to shun the “families” that have monopolised power in Haryana by forging “behind-the-scene alliances” for past 25 years.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on her part launched a twin-pronged attack on BJP and INLD, saying they were only out to grab power. She also accused BJP of being pro-rich and making hollow promises.

In the 2009 elections in Haryana, Congress had won 40 seats, INLD 31, BJP 4 and Independents 7.

While Haryana’s famous ‘Lals’-— Devi Lal, Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal– may have dominated the state’s political landscape for decades, years after they are gone, their progenies and kin who are contesting from different seats this time hope to keep the family name flying high.

Devi Lal’s son former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and the latter’s son Ajay Singh may be out of the contest this time in the wake of their sentencing in the teachers’ recruitment scam last year but prestige is at stake for the kin who are in fray fighting from the seats represented by the jailed leaders.


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