Splinter groups may spoil big guns' party

Each party has own set of terms in Maharashtra

The major fight in the October 13 poll may be between the Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, but the presence of several other formations is likely to have an impact on voting.The RPI, Left and PWP have brought all the leftist parties together to form the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF), while the right-leaning Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has fielded candidates in several of the 288 Assembly seats.
Each party has its own set of challenges. The NCP, for instance, has to endure the ignominy of contesting in the lowest number of seats in its decade-long history, after arm-twisting by the Congress and the rebellion within its ranks.

The Congress, on the other hand, enters the elections buoyed by its performance in the Lok Sabha polls. Hoping to emerge as the single largest party, the Congress has fielded candidates in 174 seats, leaving the NCP just 114 seats. If the results fail to favour them, the seat-sharing arrangement could prove over-ambitious for the Congress and the downfall of the alliance as a whole.

As for the Sena-BJP combine, the arrangement has largely been in line with their two-decade-old tradition agreed to between the late Pramod Mahajan and Sena chief Bal Thackeray. With the swapping of a few seats due to delimitation, the Sena and the BJP have settled for 169 and 119 seats, respectively.

However, the alliance has to fear the presence of MNS in at least 125 of those constituencies, as the Raj Thackeray-led party is expected to eat into the rightwing vote bank of the saffron alliance — the Marathi manoos. The alliance is still smarting from the defeats it suffered in nine Lok Sabha constituencies which were also contested by the MNS during the general elections in April-May.

Competition between both the Senas is fierce. If the MNS fights on the North Indian issue, the Shiv Sena would counter it with its plans to provide jobs for locals. Though the BJP maintains a distance from both the Thackerays, it has to invariably suffer with its ally. The Congress-NCP alliance has its own nemesis in RLDF, which appeals to the Dalit-Ambedkarite population. This would expect to swing the elections, at least in constituencies with larger Dalit presence.

Previously allying with the Congress-NCP, the RPI is going alone for the first time in the election. Ramdas Athawale, an RPI leader, was promised a ministerial position in the previous UPA government, which remained unfulfilled till the end.

DH News Service

90-year-old in fray, courtesy Rahul

In 2004, Satgonda Revgonda Patil sought a Congress ticket from Shirol Assembly constituency in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra but did not succeed. The 90-year-old farmer is now contesting the October 13 Assembly poll from the same constituency, courtesy Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, reports PTI from Mumbai
On March 4 last year, during a tour of western Maharashtra to study plight of sugarcane growers, Rahul happened to visit Patil’s greenhouse. The then 89-year-old’s zest impressed Rahul, sources said. He suggested the party to nominate Patil for the Assembly polls, he added.

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