Three ministers’ fates to be decided Thursday (Poll curtainraiser – Maharashtra)

Mumbai, April 22 (Inditop) Two descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji, three central ministers, and a few gen-next politicians are among candidates whose electoral fortunes will be decided Thursday as around 37.7 million voters in Maharashtra choose 25 representatives to the Lok Sabha.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (Madha), Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay (Raigad) and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde (Solapur) are among the 372 candidates in the fray in the second phase of the polls.

Also contesting are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman Gopinath Munde, attempting to make his mark after the death of his brother-in-law, the late Pramod Mahajan, and sitting Congress legislator from Pune Suresh Kalmadi, who is also president of the Indian Olympic Association.

Seeking re-election is Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India (RPI), a key ally of the NCP, as also Arun Bhatia, a former crusading bureaucrat, through his Peoples Guardian Party in Pune.

Only 20 of the candidates in this phase are women, a majority of them independents.

With two major seat-sharing agreements in place in the state, the Congress will be fighting against the BJP in six constituencies and against the Shiv Sena in three constituencies. The Congress and the NCP have entered into a poll pact; so have the BJP and the Shiv Sena.

The NCP will contest against the BJP in seven constituencies and against the Shiv Sena in seven others.

Two blue-blooded candidates, descendants of the great Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, are in the fray, both contesting against the Shiv Sena on the NCP ticket.

They are Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Shahu pitted against the Shiv Sena’s Vijay Devane in Kolhapur and Chhatrapati Udayanraje Pratapsinh Bhosale challenging the Shiv Sena’s Purushottam Jadhav in Satara.

While Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has put up candidates in all the 25 constituencies going to the polls in the second phase, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has put up candidates in Jalna and Pune.

The second phase will also see second generation politicians throw their hats into the national poll ring.

The NCP’s upcoming face, Supriya Sule, will step into her father Sharad Pawar’s shoes from Baramati, while her colleague Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, is contesting from Nashik.

In the coastal Konkan region’s Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency, state Industries Minister Narayan Rane’s son Nilesh Rane is contesting on the Congress ticket. He is attempting to break the stranglehold of veteran Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu.

The constituencies going to the polls are: Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Raver, Jalna, Aurangabad, Dindori, Nashik, Raigad, Maval, Pune, Baramati, Shirur, Ahmednagar, Shirdi, Beed, Latur, Osmanabad, Solapur, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Hatknangle and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.

Thirteen of the state’s 48 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase April 16 and elections will be held for the remaining 10 on April 30. Maharashtra witnessed 54 percent voter turnout in the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies where election were held in the first phase.