Having taken the gamble of going solo in Maharashtra, where it broke its 25-year alliance with the Shiv Sena, as well as in Haryana, the BJP has depended solely on Prime Minister Modis image to carry it through. Modi addressed 37 rallies during the campaign in the two states. The stakes are high for him, for the results will be an indicator for how far the wave of support that swept the BJP to power has sustained since the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP will be hoping for nothing less than a clear majority in Maharashtra and the number one position in Haryana. On the other hand, if the party delivers those two objectives, and particularly if the BJP wins Haryana too, it will enhance Modis stature further.
Considering that the BJPs performance was poor in the 2009 elections in both states, it was a bold step for BJP president Shah to have taken the decision of fighting the elections alone. As a senior minister put it, Maharashtra is the biggest risk Shah has taken after the Lok Sabha sweep in Uttar Pradesh, and as president of the BJP. Shah, who has changed the terms for the BJPs negotiations with its alliance partners, whether it is longterm ally the Shiv Sena or new ally the Haryana Janhit Congress, will be looking for the same results as Modi will. If the party fails to score as it hopes, his rivals as well as discontented elements in the party will be emboldened. Unlike after the recent bypoll setbacks in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat, Shah will this time not be able to stay untouched by these results.
After father and BJP
This is the first assembly election the Shiv Sena is contesting after Bal Thackerays death. Under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, the party is fighting to show it remains as relevant as it was in his fathers time. After the split with the BJP, the Sena faces a test for how well it can stand on own, especially after having demanded a larger share of seats than its 25-year ally-turned-rival. Besides, the Sena has to fight the Congress and the NCP too.
Battle for relevance
In 2009, his MNS won 13 seats. The challenge before Raj Thackeray is how relevant he can stay in a multi-cornered contest. The MNS lost its deposit in all 10 seats it contested in the Lok Sabha elections, and is hoping to gain from the split among the Shiv Sena, the BJP, NCP and the Congress. In 2009, it made its mark as a spoilsport; now, its worry is that the mainstream parties may play spoilsport to his regional outfit in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune.
Personal prestige in Cong
The former Maharashtra chief minister has put up a brave front over the past months, battling detractors within his cabinet and in the NCP. He survived senior Congress leaders repeated demands that he be replaced, and now faces his toughest test ever, against sitting legislator and Congressman-turned-rebel Vilas Patil-Undalkar, with other parties gathering their forces to ensure his defeat. Considered an outsider despite having his roots in the state, he was brought into the state to replace Ashok Chavan in the wake of the latters alleged involvement in the Adarsh housing scam. He has since earned a reputation as a clean administrator, though somewhat slow in making decisions a charge he strongly refutes. Despite strong anti-incumbency against the 15-year rule of the Congress-NCP government, Chavans personal ratings have remained high in various surveys. He has in recent weeks spoken out against the NCP and its alleged role in the Rs-70,000-crore irrigation scam, about the traditional builder-politician nexus in Maharashtra, and has even hinted at some understanding between the BJP and the NCP in the run-up to the polls. The Berkeley-educated engineer has much riding on this election personal vindication of his position as the Congress face of this campaign, a reply to his rivals who have questioned his leadership, as well as his political legacy in Satara and the rest of Maharashtra.
The NCP, fighting to retain its turf in the elections, is facing a challenge from the BJP for the first time in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra, which has 58 seats. In the five-party poll, the NCP will have to take on not only the BJP but also former ally the Congress, which has a sizeable presence in the region. The NCPs big players include former ministers R R Patil and Jayant Patil, assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. In the Lok Sabha elections, the NCP won four seats to two by the Congress. In the absence of any role at the Centre, all hopes of Sharad Pawar and his party lie entirely in Maharashtra.
It was the former deputy chief ministers mission to make the NCP the single largest party in the assembly elections. For the past five years, he had stuck to a strategy with a single agenda on mind of becoming chief minister of Maharashtra. Ajit is contesting from the family stronghold of Baramati. However, Ajit, whose image took a major beating for his off-the-cuff remarks and the alleged irrigation scam, is now fighting to refurbish his and the partys image. The way the election results go are crucial to Ajit as he has played a key role in working out policies and selecting candidates. Ajit, who enjoys a lot of support from elected MLAs, will need the results to retain his stature in the party.
BJPs HOME FACES
On April 11, 2013, he took over the responsibility of leading the partys state unit in the assembly elections. Fadnavis is seen as the man on whom hinge the partys ambitions of an absolute majority, something that would consolidate his standing in the party. Contesting for the fourth time from Nagpur Southwest, Fadnavis is the face of the BJP in Maharashtra. It was under his leadership that the party decided to part ways with the Shiv Sena, setting the stage for a multi-cornered contest. It was also under his leadership that the BJP embarked on the ambitious Mission 145 in the polls.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council is contesting an assembly election for the first time. Tawde has been in the council twice earlier. He faces a challenge in getting elected in the first place. Tawde is contesting from Borivali constituency, considered a safe seat for the party thanks to the groundwork by senior leader Gopal Shetty, who was elected MP in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
All others vs BJP
Bhupinder Singh Hooda
He has ruled the state for nearly 10 years in consecutive terms, the first Haryana CM to do so. Lately, the voices of dissent against him within the Congress have got louder. Although he is close to the Congress leadership, Hoodas future could become uncertain should the Congress be voted out in Haryana. Senior Congress leaders, including Birender Singh and Rao Inderjit Singh, have already shifted to the BJP, accusing Hooda of lopsided development. Kiran Choudhary and Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Tanwar have voiced their dissent during their campaigns. If Hooda fails to retain Haryana for the party, it might tilt the balance of power between these heavyweights and Hooda.
Om Prakash Chautala
Undergoing conviction on corruption charges, Chautala still leads the INLD, known for its dynastic rule. The party faces no dissent against O P Chautalas leadership. However, if the INLD loses, its prospects of staying relevant over the next five years will be bleak. Chautalas elder son Ajay is convicted along with him and his younger son Abhay is facing a case of disproportionate assets. Abhay has not yet been able to transform himself into a mass leader, having always been in the shadow of his father. The party has projected O P Chautala as CM candidate, despite his conviction. If the INLD loses, it will be difficult for the clan to hold on to ambitious leaders who are ready to jump onto rival parties bandwagon.
He has so far failed to make a mark in Haryanas politics. Known more because of his father, former CM Bhajan Lal, Kuldeep has shown none of the latters skills. Despite getting six seats in the 2009 assembly polls, he failed to hold on to the winning nominees, who deserted him and joined the Congress. For the past five years, the HJC was represented by Kuldips wife Renuka Bishnoi alone in the house of 90. Kuldeep recently lost the Lok Sabha poll from Hisar, considered to be a Bishnoi citadel, to then political rookie Dushyant Chautala, grandson of Om Prakash. Kuldeep was recently dumped by the HJCs ally the BJP because of his ambitious demand that he be projected as the alliances chief minister.