Maharashtra Assembly Polls: Congress-NCP bank on development, Sena-BJP seek change

Political parties in Maharashtra formally got into poll-mode as the date for Assembly elections was announced on Friday with ruling Congress-NCP banking on their "development" record while the Opposition pushed for "change".

Mumbai: Political parties in Maharashtra formally got into poll-mode as the date for Assembly elections was announced on Friday with ruling Congress-NCP banking on their "development" record while the Opposition pushed for "change".

Congress and NCP, ruling the state for 15 years, said they have put behind the Lok Sabha election debacle and were confident of defying the anti-incumbency factor to pull off a fourth straight win at the hustings.

Buoyed by the success in Parliamentary polls, the Shiv Sena-BJP-led combine is making a determined bid to capture power after being in Opposition since 1999.

Congress and NCP, whose seat-sharing talks are deadlocked over the number of seats each of them would be fighting in the 288-member Assembly, have already started their election campaign separately.

State Congress president Manikrao Thakre and NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said the seat-sharing formula is likely to be announced in 2-3 days.

"We are focusing on the development works done by the state government in the last 15 years. We will also tell people how the tall promises made by Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha campaign have remained a pipe dream," they said.

"Congress is positive about continuing its alliance with NCP," Thakre maintained, while Malik said a decision on the poll pact would be arrived at by Monday.

Malik said NCP will formally kick-start its election campaign from Kolhapur on September 16.

Congress will once again bank on its star campaigners like party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi. It will also invite other Central leaders.

Thakre said a campaign strategy is being finalised and the party is likely to invite leaders like Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Mallikarjun Kharge for poll rallies.

Malik said NCP president Sharad Pawar would share stage with Sonia Gandhi at rallies, while the party's youth brigade would address joint rallies with Rahul Gandhi.

Meanwhile, state BJP president Devendra Fadanvis said the state is ready for "parivartan" (change).

"The Sena-BJP-led 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance) is confident of wresting power from the Congress-NCP and we would achieve this goal with help of the people of Maharashtra."

Fadanvis expressed confidence that seat-sharing talks for the October 15 elections with 'Mahayuti' allies will be completed in 2-3 days.

Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena spokesperson, said time has come to bring a change in the state which has seen "poor governance" in the last one-and-a-half decade.

After their impressive Lok Sabha poll performance, BJP

leaders are insisting on contesting more seats this time.

During 2009 polls, Sena had contested 169 and BJP 119 seats.

In the run up to the polls, several NCP leaders deserted the party to join BJP including former state party chief Babanrao Pachpute, former minister Vijaykumar Gavit and former MLA Rahul Randhe. Though party chief Sharad Pawar played down the defections, NCP is the worse-hit constituent of the ruling alliance in terms of desertions.

With hopes of reaping a rich electoral harvest, Shiv Sena leaders are making noises about their leader Uddhav Thackeray becoming Chief Minister in the event of 'Mahayuti' coming to power.

In BJP, there are three leaders -- state party unit chief Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Eknath Khadse and his counterpart in Legislative Council Vinod Tawde -- vying for the position.

It was reported that BJP president Amit Shah, during his visit to Mumbai last week, had asked party cadre to rally behind Fadnavis.

However, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said in Delhi today that in Maharashtra there has been a tradition of not announcing a chief ministerial candidate before the election.

Congress too does not have a dearth of aspirants for the coveted job with supporters of the party's campaign committee chief Narayan Rane claiming their leader has been promised the CM's post if the ruling combine succeeds in fending off the challenge from Sena-BJP-led alliance.