Mumbai: An estimated 64% of Maharashtra's 8.35 crore voters on Wednesday cast their ballots in a bitterly-fought election that pollsters said will throw up a hung assembly with BJP emerging as the single-largest party but falling short of a majority in the 288-member House.
“Approximately 64% polling has been recorded by 6%. The exact details are being worked out,” sources in the office of the state's chief electoral officer said. The poll, considered the first major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity after Lok Sabha election, passed off peacefully.
Prominent among those whose electoral fate will be decided when counting takes place on Sunday include former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, his deputy and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, leader of opposition in the legislative assembly Eknath Khadse, his counterpart in legislative council Vinod Tawde (both BJP), Shiv Sena leader in the outgoing assembly Subhash Desai and his MNS counterpart Bala Nandgaonkar.
Polling started on a brisk note, slowed down around noon but again picked up and about 55% of the electorate had cast their votes by 5 pm, officials said. Technical problems in electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported from some polling booths in Nagpur city and Wardha district in Vidarbha, and Sewree in Mumbai.
Voters in a Nashik booth also complained that the electoral rolls were not in order. A policeman on election duty was killed after being struck by lightning in Avdeghat polling station of Savner constituency in Vidarbha, where polling in some parts was marred by rains.
The election, first in over two decades without any major pre-poll alliances in place after BJP snapped its 25-year-old ties with Shiv Sena and NCP broke off its partnership with Congress after a 15-year shot at power in the state, will also test the individual mettle of the parties.
Raj Thackeray's MNS, after a drubbing in Lok Sabha poll, is seeking to emerge as X factor and the king maker in the contest where multiplicity of parties is expected to drastically reduce victory margins.