MAHARASHTRA [ Images ]: As the State Assembly -- elections to which will be held today -- has 288 seats, the expectation is that no one party will get a majority on its own and independent candidates will play a big role in helping either the ruling or opposition alliances reach the halfway mark.
The latest internal assessment of the Congress high command suggests the party will get around 91 seats (against 73 in the last Assembly elections), ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will go down to just between 49 and 51 seats (69 in the last Assembly), while the debutant Navnirman Sena (MNS) will hardly get 10 seats, but damage the chances of the Shiv Sena [ Images ] in many seats.
In 1995, Independents played a crucial role to form the BJP-Shiv Sena government. and this time too, both sides think the unattached MLAs will become 'prized catches' after the polls.
The face of the Maharashtra battle may be the ruling Congress-NCP alliance versus the Opposition Sena-BJP combine. But the political fight in the state is also about the damaging capacity of the MNS and Independents, power woes versus the goodwill of farm loan waiver, caste equations versus the 'stability' campaign, aging Balasaheb Thackeray's 'clarion call' versus Rahul Gandhi's [ Images ] pitch for the youth.
HARYANA: Congress banks on LS success
Haryana seems set to make a break with the past. No incumbent government has ever returned to power for a second successive term since 1977. But when the state goes to the Assembly polls today, this tradition could be broken.
The ruling Congress party, which is contesting all the 90 Assembly seats, had won the first three Assembly polls -- in 1967, 1968 and 1972. The party aims at retain power this time, too.
The Bhupinder Singh Hooda government had got the Assembly polls advanced by seven months, hoping to cash in on the party's stellar show in the recent Lok Sabha polls when it bagged nine out of 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
In the last Assembly polls in 2005, the Congress had stormed to power, winning 67 seats.
A National Election Study (NES) 2009 conducted by Lokniti and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, reveals that Hooda was rated by 32 per cent of respondents as the top choice for the CM's post and Chautala remained runner-up with just 14 per cent approval. More than 60 per cent expressed satisfaction with the Hooda government's performance.
Even a majority of NDA voters were satisfied with the state government's performance. The Congress is seen as a party capable of improving law and order by 41 per cent, whereas 31 per cent expressed no opinion.
With the Opposition in a shambles after the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) parted ways and parties like the Haryana Janhit Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party going alone, the Congress camp is optimistic of an easy victory in view of the multi-cornered contest in all seats.
The Congress is banking on development projects initiated by the state and the central governments, while its opponents are alleging that the benefits of welfare schemes have reached only a few. The shortage of power is a big electoral issue in the state.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Tough contest
A total of 157 candidates are in the fray for 60 Assembly seats in Arunachal Pradesh, elections to which will be held today. The Congress put up candidates in all 60 seats and three of them, including Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu [ Images ], have been elected unopposed.
But for the other seats, the election has been rendered more interesting because in 2008, nine Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and Members of the Legislative Assembly crossed over to the Congress, plunging the most important Opposition party in a crisis as its numbers in the Assembly plummeted to zero from nine.
In the 60-member House, the Congress has 43 members, against 13 Independents and two each from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Arunachal Congress. The Congress has put up candidates in all 60 seats.
The NCP, which is Congress' ally in the Centre and in Maharashtra, is pitted against it in Arunachal Pradesh, and has put up 36 candidates. Another Congress ally -- the Trinamool Congress [ Images ] -- has put up 26 candidates, including 10 sitting Congress MLAs who were denied tickets by the party.