Maharashtra elections: In game of alliances, has Sharad Pawar managed to get one up against the Congress?

Maharashtra Opinion Poll: The campaigning for October 21 Assembly elections in Maharashtra will draw to a close on Saturday. All major parties – BJP, Shiv Sena and Opposition alliance of Congress and the NCP have been pushing hard to woo voters. While the saffron alliance appears confident of retaining power in the state, Sharad Pawars Nationalist Congress Party looks set to occupy the role of the main Opposition party in the state, superseding the Congress. The fact that the Congress has lost its big brother tag was evident after it agreed to a 50:50 seat-sharing formula with the NCP where both the parties would field candidates on 125 assembly seats each and leave 38 seats for other smaller allies. In 2004, the Congress and NCP had contested on 157 and 124 seats respectively. A difference of 33 seats. Opinion Poll predicts NCP to emerge bigger than Congress An Opinion Poll conducted by Jan Ki Baat for Republic TV has projected a comfortable victory for the NDA in Maharashtra The BJP is projected to win 142 to 147 seats in 288-seat assembly. With such kind of overwhelming mandate, the BJP could be able to form the government on its own. The Shiv Sena is likely to pocket 83 to 85 seats. On the other hand, the Congress is likely to win 21 to 23 seats and the NCP 27 to 29 seats which way below the magic figure of 145 seats. This will be a departure from the trends seen in the Assembly election results in 2014 where the Congress and NCP settled at 42 and 41 seats, respectively, leaving them almost at par with each other. The results of the 2009 Assembly elections, however, show how the NCP has managed to bridge the gap between itself and the Congress. In the Assembly elections held in Maharashtra in 2009, the Congress had emerged on top with 82 seats, while the NCP came in second with 62 MLAs in the assembly. The BJP and the Shiv Sena finished third and fourth with 46 and 45 seats, respectively. BJP aware of NCPs rising stature While Sharad Pawar has denied the diminishing role of the Congress in the states polity, he has had to answer some tough questions about the Congress netas missing in action in Maharashtra, a charge that the BJP has levelled against the Opposition alliance. Pawar had to step up to the defence of the Congress in this perception battle and said the Maharashtra Congress is not weak and working aggressively at the grass-root level, PTI reported. The BJP is certainly aware about the Nationalist Congress Partys rising stature in the Opposition alliance, and is precisely the reason why partys star campaigners PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have been targeting Sharad Pawars party consistently in the ongoing campaign. Addressing a rally in Akola this week, PM Modi trained his guns particularly at the NCP while raking up the issue of underworld links. Without naming anyone, PM Modi said the country will soon know how the perpetrators of 1993 serial bomb blasts escaped. You remember bomb blasts in Maharashtra targeting trains, buses and other establishments. The masterminds of the crime also escaped to an enemy country. As we all want to know how they escaped, the new revelations are clearing the picture. Who all had, what kind of business relations with them, PM Modi said. The new revelations indicate why offenders of bomb blast cases escaped from the country, he said while apparently referring to reports about the Enforcement Directorate summoning senior NCP leader Praful Patel in connection with a money laundering case. The case involves Dawood Ibrahims close aide Iqbal Mirchi. While Dawood has reportedly been living in Karachi since escaping from India in 1993, Mirchi died in 2013.