Stage Set for Third Phase Polls in Maharashtra

Stage Set for Third Phase Polls in Maharashtra
Polling for the third and final phase of general elections in Maharashtra will be held tomorrow in 10 Lok Sabha seats, including the high-profile Mumbai South constituency, which bore the brunt of 26/11 terror strikes.

The constituencies going to polls tomorrow are Mumbai South, Mumbai South Central, Mumbai North Central, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North East and Mumbai North. In Thane district, polling is being held in four Lok Sabha seats - Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar.

Altogether 196 candidates, including 17 women, are in fray. Over 1.59 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. The first and second round voting in Maharashtra, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats, were held on April 16 and 23.

Prominent candidates in the final phase include sitting MPs Milind Deora of Congress and Sena's Mohan Rawle (Mumbai South), Priya Dutt (Mumbai North Central), BJP leaders Ram Naik (Mumbai North) and Kirit Somaiya (Mumbai North-East).

A total of 55.72 per cent polling was registered in the first phase on April 16 for 10 seats in Vidarbha and three in Marathwada regions. For the second phase, which covered 25 constituencies in Konkan, Marathwada, North Maharashtra and Western Maharashtra, 52.42 per cent of the electorate voted.

Senior leaders of all major political parties, including Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, have addressed elections rallies in the state.

Besides the Congress-NCP and the Shiv Sena-BJP alliances, parties like Raj Thackeray-led MNS, SP, BSP and a couple of high profile Independents, including a banker in Mumbai South, are in the fray.

The delimitation of constituencies has resulted in increased number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in this region, leading other parties to expand their base at the expense of Congress and Shiv Sena, traditional rivals in these urban constituencies.

Post-delimitation, the number of Lok Sabha seats has gone up from eight to ten in Mumbai and Thane region. The number of Assembly segments has increased from 47 to 60.

The Lok Sabha elections in the state are being seen as 'semi finals' in the run up to the Legislative Assembly elections scheduled in September-October.

Infrastructural woes, housing problems, security concerns, burgeoning migrant population are some of the issues facing the people of Mumbai as well as the neighbouring satellite towns of Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan, Dombivali.

In the 2004 polls, Congress had done exceedingly well, winning all the five Lok Sabha seats it had contested in Mumbai.

In Thane district, two sitting MPs, Anand Paranjpe and Damoo Shingada, are seeking reelection. Two ex-MPs Chintaman Wanga and Jagananth Patil, are also trying their luck.

Post-delimitation, the voter population of Thane city has shrunk to 18 lakhs from 42 lakhs earlier. In this seat, the main fight is likely to be between NCP candidate Sanjeev Naik, son of Maharashtra Minister Ganesh Naik, and Sena's Vijay Chowgule though there are 28 others in the fray.

Raj Thackeray-led MNS has fielded Rajan Raje, who is likely to cut into the Sena's votes.

The Kalyan seat is witnessing a fight between Deputy Chairman of Maharashtra Legislative Council Vasant Davkhare of the NCP and sitting MP Anand Paranjpe. Twenty candidates are in the race in Kalyan, which has 15.87 lakh voters. MNS has fielded Vaishali Darekar.

The original Dahanu reserved constituency has been rechristened Palghar, where Shingada of the Congress is locked in a straight contest with Chintaman Wanga of BJP.

The Bhiwandi constituency has been carved out of the original Dahanu Lok Sabha seat and has a voter population of 14.82 lakhs.

Bhiwandi has 16 candidates but the main fight is likely to be between Jagannath Patil of the Shiv Sena-BJP combine and Suresh Tawre of the Congress. MNS has fielded D K Mhatre.

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