The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi led by Shiv Sena and the opposition BJP will square off on Tuesday in polls for six Maharashtra Legislative Council seats comprising three graduates, two teachers and a local bodies constituency. Votes will be counted on Thursday.
It will be a prestige issue for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, whose government with allies Congress and NCP recently completed one year amid the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the BJP, which is contesting all the six seats and whose senior leaders Devendra Fadnavis, Chandrakant Patil and Pravin Darekar have left no stone unturned for a win. The Congress is fighting three seats, the NCP two and the Sena one.
The opposition has tried to pin the MVA government on issues like its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the economic slide due to the lockdown, as well as large-scale distress among farmers over crop loss due to heavy rains. The seats that go to polls on Tuesday are the Pune Division Graduates' constituency, Nagpur Division Graduates' constituency, Aurangabad Division Graduates' constituency, Amravati Division Teachers' constituency, Pune Division Teachers' constituency and Dhule-Nandurbar Local Bodies' constituency.
The Dhule-Nadurbar seat is having a bypoll after sitting MLC Ambrish Patel quit the Congress to join the BJP. The other five seats are going to the polls as three MLCs from the graduates' constituencies, namely Satish Chavan (NCP), Chandrakant Patil (BJP) and Anil Sole (BJP), and two Independent MLCs from teachers' constituencies, Shrikant Deshpande and Dattratray Sawant, retired on July 19.
The main contestants for the Dhule-Nandurbar seat are Ambrish Patel and Congress' Abhijit Patil while in the Pune Division Graduates seat, the fight is between Sangram Deshmukh (BJP) and Arun Lad (NCP). In Nagpur Division Graduates' seat, the fight is between Sandeep Joshi (BJP) and Abhijeet Vanjari (Congress), and in Aurangabad Division Graduates' seat, Shirish Boralkar (BJP and Satish Chavan (NCP) will battle it out.
In Amravati Division Teachers' constituency, Nitin Dhande (BJP) and Shrikant Deshpande (Shiv Sena) are up against each other, and Pune Division Graduates' seat, the main contestants are Jayant Asgaonkar (Congress) and Jitendra Pawar (BJP). As per poll data, the Nagpur graduates' constituency, which covers Wardha, Nagpur, Bhandara,Gondia, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts, has 2,06,454 voters for whom 322 polling centres have been set up.
The Aurangabad graduates' seat has 813 polling centres for 3,73,479 voters and it covers Nanded, Hingoli, Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad, Beed, Latur and Osmanabad districts. The Pune graduates' seat, which covers Pune, Solapur, Satara, Kolhapur and Sangli districts, has 4,26,257 voters and 835 polling centres have been set up.
The Pune teachers' seat, on the other hand, has 72,545 voters and 367 polling booths have been established. There are 77 polling booths in the Amravati teachers' seat which covers Buldhana, Akola, Washim, Amravati and Yavatmal districts.
"All the preparations have been done for Tuesday's polling. There are 1,202 polling stations in five districts of Pune constituency where voting will take place. Our polling parties have reached these polling stations," said Saurabh Rao, Divisional Commissioner, Pune. Voting will take place between 8 am and 5 pm, he said.
More than two lakh graduate voters are eligible to cast votes to elect MLC from the Nagpur division, officials said. The Nagpur graduate constituency is considered as the stronghold of the BJP, which has been wining since decades.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari had represented this seat for several years before becoming MP of Nagpur. For Aurangabad Graduates constituency, a total of 3.73 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise between 8 am and 5 pm in Aurangabad, Nanded, Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Hingoli and Parbhani districts at 813 booths, an official said.
"Special preparations are done in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. 1.52 lakh surgical masks, 8,200 pairs of hand gloves, 9,200 face shields, over 14,000 bottles of sanitisers, 1,300 thermal guns have been distributed among teams to conduct the electoral process," he said.