Mumbai: Polling began on a brisk note in Maharashtra this morning, where 7.31 percent of the over 8.35 crore voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours.
A policeman on election duty was killed after being struck by lightning in Avdeghat polling station of Savner constituency in Vidarbha, where polling in some parts was marred by rains.
The estimated polling in some districts was: Aurangabad 10 percent, Beed 9, Solapur 8, Kolhapur 10, Hingoli 8.5, Osmanabad 9, Nashik 7, and Parbhani 7.5 percent.
Among the early voters were former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who cast his vote in Karad in western Maharashtra, from where he is a candidate, former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in Baramati, former union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde in Solapur, Leader of Opposition in Council Vinod Tawde in Mumbai and NCP MP Supriya Sule and her mother Pratibha Pawar.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, a front runner for chief ministerial post in case BJP comes to power, also cast his vote.
Asked if his party Shiv Sena will have a post-poll alliance with BJP or any other party, former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi, who cast his vote in Mumbai, said, "Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is the ultimate authority on this issue."
Among Bollywood personalities who went to polling booths in Mumbai early today were actress Rekha, Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Amol Palekar and actor Atul Kulkarni. Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar also cast his vote.
Voters will decide the fate of 4,119 candidates in the fray in 288 seats. Polling began at 7 am and will conclude at 6 pm. Counting of votes will be held on October 19.
The voting is being held to elect the 13th Assembly in the state.
While Congress leaders voiced confidence that people will again favour the party, BJP claimed that it was a vote for change and that 'Modi effect' will be visible in the election result.
Sharad Pawar's NCP claimed that the BJP had not lived up to the expectations of the people after the mandate it got in Lok Sabh election and it will face the repercussions in Maharashtra.
"I am confident that people will choose Congress this time also for the work done in last 15 years," Prithviraj Chavan said after casting his vote in Karad.
"There has been a change in the government at the Centre, major alliances have ended, and all political parties are taking their chances in this poll," he said.
I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar, who cast his vote in Pune, said, "People are voting for change, good governance and decisive government which Narendra Modi has offered."
"People are voting in this poll with even more enthusiasm than they did in the Lok Sabha poll. If the Lok Sabha polls were Dhoom, the Assembly polls are Dhoom 2, the sequel," he said.
Evading queries on possible post-poll alliance, BJP leaders claimed that the party will get complete majority
"I am sure people of Maharashtra will ensure a BJP government comes to power in the state," Fadnavis said after casting his vote in Nagpur.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan cast his vote in Nanded. His wife Ameeta is Congress candidate from Bhokar in the district.
Technical problems in EVMs were reported from some polling booths in Nagpur city and Wardha district of in Vidarbha, and Sewree in Mumbai. Voters in a Nashik booth also complained that the voter rolls were not in order.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar cast his vote in Mumbai, which recorded a dismal 5.50 percent, while adjoining Thane recorded 5.78 polling percentage in first two hours.
"There has always been a fair and transparent election in Maharashtra. I would request people to come out in good numbers. Your single vote can make a big difference. I believe our numbers will increase," Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule said.
Out of the total 8,35,38,114 voters in the state, 4,40,26,401 are men and 3,93,63,011 are women. There are 984 voters in the "others" category. The number of service voters is 147,718.
Of the 4119 candidates in the electoral fray, 3843 are male and 276 women. Of the 288 constituencies, including 36 constituencies in Mumbai, 234 are general, 29 reserved for scheduled castes and 25 for scheduled tribes.
There are 83 constituencies having more than 15 candidates and a constituency where there are more than 32 candidates.
While Nanded South has the maximum 39 candidates, Akole and Guhagar have the minimum number at five candidates each.
BJP has fielded 280, BSP 260, CPI 34, CPM 19, Congress 287, NCP 278, Shiv Sena 282 and MNS has fielded 219.
Registered parties other than recognised state and national parties have fielded 761 candidates. There are 1699 independents also in the poll arena.
Chinchwad in Pune district, with 4,84,080 voters, is the largest constituency, while Wadala in Mumbai, with 1,96,859 voters is the smallest.
The Election Commission has deputed 135 general observers, 112 expenditure observers, five police observers and 18 awareness observers, the officials said.
Altogether 5,84,617 polling personnel have been deployed. The number of polling stations is 91,376.
The high-octane campaign for Maharashtra Assembly Election ended on October 13 with the state witnessing a five-cornered contest for the Assembly.
In Pune, a moderate turn out was witnessed in the early hours of polling which began peacefully in the 21 Assembly constituencies in the district.
A BJP spokesman said two complaints of bogus voting in Kothrud area of Pune were registered with the election officers. Some voters in the city also complained of instant erasing of the indelible ink used to mark the voters.
An estimated nine percent voters cast their votes in the first two hours of polling which was progressing peacefully, officials said.