The Marathwada region, which sends eight of the 48 MPs from the state to the Lok Sabha, has been witnessing fierce electoral battles under the scorching sun, and political parties are vying with each other to woo voters of all denominations.
The key contests in this region include the battle of Beed, where senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde is being vehemently opposed by NCP minister Suresh Dhas.
In Hingoli, Indian Youth Congress president Rajeev Satav is taking on Shiv Sena's Subhas Wankhede; in Osmanabad, NCP nominee Padamsinh Patil is engaged in a no holds barred battle with Shiv Sena's Ravi Gaikawad; in Nanded, ex-CM Ashok Chavan, who still hasn't got rid of the Adarsh taint, is being opposed by BJP's DB Patil.
In 2009, the Congress-NCP alliance won three of the seats here while the BJP-Sena combine grabbed the rest.
Jaydeo Dole, a political observer in Marathwada, told dna that people were responding positively to BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's rallies, but would however not vote for BJP-Sena. "They will only vote for the Congress-NCP. It's because, the Congress-NCP network at the grassroots is very strong compared to that of the saffron alliance. Besides, caste factor will also play an important role. There is a consolidation of Maratha votes and hence even a veteran like Munde will find it hard to win. On the other hand, Ashok Chavan, though tainted by the Adarsh housing scam, will have a smooth ride in Nanded due to the development works he has undertaken and his personal equation with the people," said Dole.
The Adarsh controversy, apparently, is not a big poll issue in Nanded.
The maximum number of farmer suicides, and crop damage due to the recent hailstorms took place in Marathwada. "However, no political party is making these a poll issue as every one is equally responsible for the situation. All political outfits are enjoying power in some way or the other. Hence, corruption is also not an issue. Congress does have the anti-incumbency factor against it, but Sena-BJP haven't accomplished anything at the ground level," Dole added.
Atmaram Lomate, a local journalist, said the region had certainly been witnessing fierce battles. "It's difficult to predict who will win because every day there is some political development. However, money factor will play a major role," said Lomate.
The NCP has tried to weaken the BJP here by encouraging defections. Munde's nephew, MLC Dhananjay Munde, recently left BJP to join the NCP.
"Actually, Marathwada was a saffron bastion. But the elected representatives of Sena-BJP could not undertake any major development work as they were in the opposition, both in Delhi and Maharashtra for over ten years. So, out of sheer frustration many of their workers have joined either the Congress or the NCP. And in the absence of a strong network, the saffron parties have not been able to cash in on the Modi factor," said Arjun Wankhede, a social activist.