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Campaign dust settles for final phase of polls in Maharashtra

Posted on Apr 22 2014 | IANS

Mumbai, April 22 : Campaigning ended peacefully in Maharashtra Tuesday evening for the crucial third - and final - phase of Lok Sabha elections April 24 from 19 constituencies spread across northern and coastal parts of the state.

A total of 338 candidates, including Independents, are in the fray, with several national level politicians attempting to retain their seats in the third round of elections in the state.

Around 31.7 million voters, comprising billionaires, slum-dwellers, film stars, tribals, fisherfolk, farmers and migrants, will exercise their franchise at 43,343 polling stations in the 19 constituencies spread across coastal and northern Maharashtra, including six in Mumbai.

The big names in the race from the Congress include union Minister of State for Shipping Milind Deora, general secretary and former union minister Gurudas Kamat, former journalist Sanjay Nirupam, Priya Dutt (all in Mumbai) and former minister Manikrao Gavit in Nandurbar.

The other star candidates include the Nationalist Congress Party's Chhagan Bhujbal in Nashik and Sunil Tatkare in Raigad, the Shiv Sena's Anant Gite in Raigad, and the Bharatiya Janata Party's Kirit Somaiya in Mumbai North-East, Poonam Mahajan in Mumbai North-Central and Heena Gavit in Nandurbar.

Whistle-blower Vijay Pandhare is the Aam Aadmi Party candidate in Nashik and Medha Patkar in Mumbai North-East while celeb hotelier Farhan A. Azmi is the Samajwadi Party nominee in Mumbai North-Central.

Top political leaders from all parties have campaigned for the final phase in these 19 constituencies and are optimistic of a higher voter turnout.

The elections in Mumbai, the country's commercial capital, will command attention as the Congress's best ever performance since 1977 was witnessed in 2009, when in alliance with the NCP it bagged all the six Lok Sabha (city) seats, including one by the NCP.

In 1996. the BJP and the Shiv Sena alliance secured three seats each with the Congress drawing a blank.

The UPA alliance is hoping to repeat the 2009 feat in Mumbai this time too, but it's a tall order, given historic and other considerations since there has not been a single occasion since 1977 when any single party has bagged all the six city seats.

After the encouraging voter turnout in the first two phases - April 10 for 10 Lok Sabha seats, April 17 for 19 seats - all parties are aggressively campaigning to snare their share of votes in the final phase Thursday.

However, the recent development of at least six million names having been deleted from the state voters' list has unnerved all parties, especially in the constituencies where the winning margins were very thin in 2009.

Its adverse impact was already felt in the first two phases of polling - and parties and candidates are keeping their fingers crossed for the final phase.

The 19 constituencies going to the polls in Maharashtra are: Aurangabad, Bhiwandi, Dindori, Dhule, Jalgaon, Jalna, Kalyan, Mumbai North, Mumbai North-West, Mumbai North-East, Mumbai North-Central, Mumbai South-Central, Mumbai South, Nandurbar, Nashik, Palghar, Raver, Raigad and Thane.

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