Congress-led alliance faces a stiff challenge from the Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra

The stage is set for the Oct 13 assembly elections in Maharashtra where the ruling Congress-led alliance faces a stiff challenge from the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine for the control of one of India’s most industrialized states.

In 2004, the Congress and NCP won 139 seats in the 288-member assembly. The Shiv Sena and BJP finished with 119 seats while smaller groups as well as independents secured 30 seats.

This time, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has cast a long shadow on the Shiv Sena and BJP. For the Congress, the Republican-Left alliance is a worry.

In this year’s Lok Sabha elections, the MNS undercut the Shiv Sena and BJP in at least 10 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The elections will be a credibility test for Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who took charge of Maharashtra after the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai.

For Shiv Sena’s Udhav Thackeray, this is the first assembly election in which he will compete less with the ruling combine than his own estranged cousin Raj Thackeray.

A total of 3,559 candidates, including 211 women, are in the fray. There will be over 84,000 polling booths.

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