The chief ministers of both states—Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar, respectively—have led relentless, feverish campaigns without much threat from a relatively quiet opposition. In the recently concluded general election, the BJP won all the Lok Sabha seats in Haryana and the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won more than 85% seats in Maharashtra.
The election campaign in India’s richest state has been marked by numerous controversies and allegations. Veteran political leaders, including NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, are dealing with notices and enquiries from law enforcement agencies, while more than 25 MLAs have jumped ship, mostly to the BJP, ahead of the election. This includes Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who was the leader of the opposition from the Congress. [Read an explainer on the Maharashtra elections here]
In between all this, Chief minister Fadnavis, who has kept allies on tenterhooks and the opposition in disarray, looks like he is set to come back comfortably. [Read a profile of Devendra Fadnavis here]
Reports say that if his party can get the numbers, it will push for a deputy chief minister post for the younger Thackeray, who is the first member of his famous family to actually contest elections. [Read a long interview with Aaditya Thackeray and a profile here]
The BJP has made ambitious promises, including creating 1 crore jobs in the state.
PTI reported that the party promised to set up a separate maintenance department for the national and state highways, where repairs and other works are currently done by the road construction contractors.
The ambitious Marathwada drinking water grid project worth Rs 16,000 crore has also found place in the manifesto.
The BJP has also promised to connect all 11 dams in the perennially parched Marathwada region, and provide drinking water supply with the help of a closed pipeline.
The BJP and the Sena are contesting 164 and 124 seats, respectively, for the 288 seat state assembly.
While the Congress and the NCP have been blaming the BJP government for the “rising unemployment” and “economic downturn,” Fadnavis denied all of it saying that “Maharashtra’s population ratio to India is around 9 to 10 per cent, but the job creation is some 25 per cent compared to the total jobs created at the national level.”
The Congress, once a significant presence in the state, is not expected to make a mark at all, with even former chief ministers confining themselves to campaigning in only their own constituencies. [Read a long interview with former Maharashtra CM Prithiviraj Chavan here]
In Haryana, the BJP has promised collateral-free loans of up to Rs 3 lakh to people belonging to the scheduled caste community, if voted to power again, as well as free crop loans of up to Rs 3 lakh to farmers.
Chief Minister Khattar, according to PTI, does not face much opposition as no prominent leader has been fielded against him. While the BJP won 48 seats in 2014, it is looking to win 75 seats out of the total 90 this time.
Key candidates to watch out for include Manohar Lal Khattar from Rohtak and Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala from Kaithal.
Despite both AAP and BSP contesting these elections, it is unlikely it will be able to dent the BJP voter base in the state.