The elections for all 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra were held in a single phase on October 21, along with the polls for Haryana and 53 bye-elections.

Though voting was mostly peaceful, there were stray incidents of violence in the state. A candidate of pro-farmer outfit Swabhimani Paksha was allegedly shot at and assaulted by three men in Amravati district. Scuffles between Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party workers were reported from the state’s Beed district. Clashes were also reported from Jalna. The Congress claimed it filed more than 250 complaints about poll violations with the Election Commission. Of these, over 185 were reportedly regarding faulty Electronic Voting Machines.

More than 55% of the electorate exercised their right to vote in the state. Mumbai disappointed with a poor turnout. While Mumbai Suburban recorded 48.90% voting, just 46.13% of the electorate cast their ballot in the city. Rain also played spoilsport in some parts of the city.

EVM malfunctions

There were several reports of malfunctioning electronic voting machines. Polling booths in Kalyan West near Mumbai suffered electricity problems and glitches a number of times, forcing authorities to replace the voting machines. An EVM at polling booth number 62 in Worli, Mumbai, faced glitches and had to be replaced.

Voting was halted for brief periods of time at a booth in Ratnagiri district’s Kalamban Gavhanwadi and Dhamangaon villages as well as Bhandara district due to faulty EVMs.

Some voters had claimed that votes were cast in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party irrespective of the button pressed at some polling booths in Satara. But the Election Commission dismissed all reports of EVM tamperings.

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The campaign

The campaign was vigorous on the side of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena alliance, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing several rallies. They focused on matters such as national security, the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and corruption charges against candidates and leaders of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar appeared to be the only prominent opposition face addressing a number of rallies. Pawar addressed 60 rallies in 21 districts before the elections, more than twice the 24 he had addressed during the 2014 polls, The Times of India reported.

On the other hand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed very few rallies, and party chief Sonia Gandhi and General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi did not hold any. The Opposition’s election campaign was also hampered by fighting within the Congress and a mass exodus from the Nationalist Congress Party to the BJP ahead of the elections. Mumbai Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam stayed away from campaigning after voicing dissatisfaction with ticket distribution.

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In the fray

Senior BJP leader and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis contested the elections from the Nagpur South West constituency. Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, contested from Satara. Bhosale defected to the BJP after winning the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket.

The most high-profile candidate for the Shiv Sena was Aaditya Thackeray, the Yuva Sena chief, who fought the elections from the Worli constituency in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena contested 124 of the 288 Assembly seats, while the BJP and smaller allies fought from 164 seats.

The Nationalist Congress Party fielded 121 candidates, while its alliance partner, the Congress, had 147 nominees. Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar contested on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket from the Baramati constituency, a stronghold of the party. Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew Rohit Pawar was a candidate from the Kalyan Jamkhed constituency.

For the Congress, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan contested from the Karad South seat. Maharashtra Congress chief Vijay alias Balasaheb Thorat was a nominee from Sangamner. Former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit was fielded from the Latur City seat.

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Exit polls

All exit polls, released on Monday evening, predicted an easy victory for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.

The majority mark in the Maharashtra Assembly is 145. According to the India Today-Axis poll, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will win 166 to 194 seats in the state. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party will win 72 to 90 seats, and others 22 to 34 seats.

The Jan Ki Baat poll said that the BJP would win 135 to 142 seats, and the Shiv Sena 81 to 88 seats. The Congress was expected to be far behind with 20 to 24 seats, with the Nationalist Congress Party bagging 30 to 35 seats.

The Times Now poll predicted 230 seats for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, and the Congress-NCP just 48. TV9 Marathi-Cicero said that the ruling combine would win 197 seats, and the Congress-NCP combine only 75 seats. According to CNN News 18-IPSOS, the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition will win 243 seats, and the Congress-NCP a dismal 41 seats.

The ABP News-C Voter survey forecast 204 seats for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, and 69 for the Congress and the NCP.

2014 elections

The BJP, the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party had contested the 2014 Assembly polls separately, leading to a four-cornered contest. The BJP and Shiv Sena won a combined 185 seats – 122 for the BJP and 63 for the Shiv Sena. They formed an alliance after the elections.

The Congress won 42 seats and the Nationalist Congress Party 41. If the exit polls are to be believed, despite five years in power, the BJP and Shiv Sena government will overcome the anti-incumbency factor.

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