A total of 3,239 candidates were in the fray for 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra this election. A few, however, were in the spotlight throughout the campaign process.
Here are the most prominent among them.
Pankaja Munde is contesting from Parli in Beed district. Munde is the elder daughter of BJP veteran Gopinath Munde who died in a car accident in Delhi in June 2014, barely a week after taking oath as the number four minister in the first Narendra Modi government. Pankaja became a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government in October 2014.
Devendra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra chief minister, has managed to retain the Nagpur South West seat since it was formed in 2009. That year, Fadnavis secured a victory on a BJP ticket and won by a margin of just over 89,000 votes against Congress candidate Vikas Pandurang Thakre. In 2014, Fadnavis was victorious from this seat again with a margin of over 1,13,918 votes against Congress candidate Prafulla V. Gudadhe (Patil).
This time, Fadnavis is taking on Congress candidate Ashish Deshmukh, who is a former BJP MLA.
Ashok Chavan, a former chief minister, is the Congress candidate from Bhokar constituency in Nanded district. If the Congress manages to return to power, he will be one of the contenders for the chief ministerial position once again.
Chavan had contested the Lok Sabha election early this year and had lost with a margin of over 40,000 votes. At present, his wife Amita Chavan is a sitting MLA from the seat.
Aaditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is contesting his first election from the Worli assembly segment. He is also the first person from the Thackeray family to participate in electoral politics.
Thackeray stands a strong chance to win this seat since the opposition chose to field their relatively lesser-known candidates from this constituency. His uncle and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s chief Raj Thackeray has also decided not to field any candidate against his nephew.
Harshvardhan Patil, is seeking re-election from the Indapur assembly seat in Pune district. He had held a cabinet rank in the Prithviraj Chavan government and switched from Congress to BJP recently.
Patil has won from Indapur seat four times as a Congress candidate and was minister from 1995 to 2014. He lost the 2014 election to Datta Bharne of the NCP but expressed a wish to contest again, even though the Congress and the NCP are allies this time. Since the NCP was not willing to give up the seat, Patil left Congress and joined BJP.
Chhagan Bhujbal, a former deputy chief minister is seeking re-election from Yeola seat where he is challenged by Shiv Sena’s Sambhaji Pawar and six others. Bhujbal is a senior OBC leader and founder of Akhil Bharatiya Mahatma Phule Parishad. Bhujbal had to spend nearly two years in prison over an alleged case of misappropriation of funds in the construction of Maharashtra Sadan.
Chandrakant Patil, the state BJP president is a key candidate participating in the assembly election from Kothrud constituency. Patil is fielded against MNS candidate Kishore Shinde, who is backed by the Congress-NCP alliance. The party’s prominent Maratha face, Patil played a crucial role in BJP’s decision to allow reservation for the community in the state.
Ajit Pawar, a senior NCP leader, is seeking re-election from the family stronghold of Baramati. Pawar is contesting against Gopichand Padalkar, a Dhangar community leader, who secured a BJP ticket after jumping over from the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).
Pawar, whose name recently cropped in a cooperative bank scam had considered quitting politics.
Prithviraj Chavan is a former state chief minister contesting from the Karad south assembly segment in Satara district. Chavan decided to contest the assembly polls at the very last minute. He was initially in contention for the Satara Lok Sabha seat, to which a by-election was necessitated due to the defection of Shivaji-descendent Udayan Raje Bhosale to the BJP.
Pawar has been a prominent state and central leader and was considered to be one of the close confidants of Sonia Gandhi.
Nitesh Rane, son of former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane was the Congress’s MLA from Kankavli assembly seat in Sindhudurg district. He joined the BJP ahead of the election and is now contesting from the same seat as the BJP’s candidate. Nitesh’s performance will decide his and his father’s relevance in state politics.