Looks like it's the era of Ayarams and Gayarams in Maharashtra politics with parties fielding candidates, who have recently shifted loyalties, in around a third of the 48 constituencies.
The Shiv Sena has lost three of its sitting MPs to the Congress, and one to NCP. And Gajanan Babar (Maval), miffed at being denied re-nomination may join the rival Raj Thackeray-led MNS.
NCP scored brownie points against Shiv Sena by luring its MP, Anand Paranjape (Kalyan); Congress poached on Sena MP Bhausaheb Wakchoure in Shirdi. Shiv Sena MP from Parbhani, Ganeshrao Dudhgaonkar, has also shifted sides, to the NCP and is likely to contest the assembly polls. Five-term former Sena MP Mohan Rawle, who is a former bodyguard of late Sena chief Bal Thackeray, too joined the NCP after being expelled from Sena.
The MNS has nominated former Shiv Sena student wing chief Abhijit Panse from Thane; actor-director Mahesh Manjrekar, who was earlier with the Shiv Sena, has been drafted by the MNS to contest from Mumbai North-West.
The BJP got a shot in the arm when it got NCP leader and medical education minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit's daughter, Dr Heena, to contest from Congress bastion Nandurbar.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too has fielded contestants from across the political spectrum ranging from old-time socialists to liberal farmer leaders.
Sena leader Rahul Narvekar switched sides to the NCP after a controversy over withdrawing his name from legislative council polls; he was immediately given ticket from Maval constituency. His opponent,
Laxman Jagtap, who has been supported by the PWP, is a former NCP man, and Shiv Sena's Srirang Barne is an ex-Congress leader, who joined the saffron party in 2009.
In neighboring Raigad, PWP is supporting former NCP MLA from Chiplun, Ramesh Kadam.
Some other prominent candidates who have switched sides include: Kapil Patil (BJP- Bhiwandi), Vishwanath Patil (Congress-Bhiwandi), Sanjay Mandlik (Shiv Sena-Kolhapur), Hemant Godse (Shiv Sena-Nashik), Sanjaykaka Patil (BJP-Sangli), Raghunathdada Patil (AAP-Hatkanangale), Dr Subhash Bhamre (BJP-Dhule), Rajiv Rajale Patil (NCP-Ahmednagar), Manish Jain (NCP-Raver), Ashok Khandebharad (MNS-Shirur) and DB Patil (BJP-Nanded).
"This is selfishness, unfortunately politics is full of it," lamented senior Janata Dal (Secular) leader Nihal Ahmed, who has been with the socialists since the 1950s and has represented communally-sensitive Malegaon in the assembly for almost three and-a-half decades.
"There seems to be little space for principles, and those who stand by scruples are ridiculed," said the former disciple of Gandhiji and social reformer Sane Guruji, who has, however, been accused of facilitating communal polarisation in the textile town in Nashik district.
According to Sandeep Pradhan, political editor, Maharashtra Times: "Politics has become a profession. We have professional politicians who earn money through politics, invest it in business and again use the profit from it for politics. They need to come to power or stay close to those in power and hence, for them ideology is secondary."
"People take decisions going by personal equations," said NCP MLA and spokesperson Nawab Malik, who himself wound his way into the party via the Samajwadi Party. "If we so decide, Shiv Sena will be left with no leaders. Many of them are lining up to join us," claimed Malik.
Surendra Jondhale, professor, department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai, said the phenomenon of leaders switching sides could be attributed to the flexibility in once-strong organisations and the absence of internal democracy. "Parliamentary politics is also centred around power," he added, noting that elective merit was being given more importance.