Over one crore voters will exercise their franchise to choose between 201 candidates in the 10 seats of Vidarbha that go to the polls in Maharashtra on Thursday.
The fate of Union Ministers Praful Patel (Bhandara-Gondiya) and Mukul Wasnik (Ramtek), former BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Aam Aadmi Party activist Anjali Damania (Nagpur) as well as Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar (Akola), will be decided by the 1.22 crore strong electorate.
The polls take place under the shadow of massive hailstorms that hit the state, which triggered a number of suicides by farmers as well.
An aggressive campaign has been mounted by the BJP, with prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressing rallies in Wardha, Amravati, Akola and Chandrapur. Congress president Sonia Gandhi touched Nagpur while Vice-President Rahul Gandhi came to Wardha, Yavatmal and Gadchiroli.
With the Election Commission making all-out efforts to ensure maximum turnout, it remains to be seen whether polling in Vidarbha will cross the average of 56.05 per cent totted up in 2009.
Nagpur, reflecting the larger trend, had the lowest polling percentage of 43.43 per cent in the last Lok Sabha polls while Bhandara-Gondiya topped the voting charts with 71.06 per cent.
While the BJP is contesting six seats, the Congress is in the fray in seven, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in three and the Shiv Sena is fighting in four. Both the Bahujan Samaj Party and AAP are contesting all 10 seats.
In 2009, the Congress won four seats, its ally the NCP one, while the Shiv Sena picked up three seats and its partner, the BJP, won two.
Senior Congress functionaries have said that the party might win three of the 10 seats while Maharashtra Chief Minister told this newspaper that there was a “trend” towards the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The rest of the 38 constituencies in two neat sets of 19 each will go to the polls on April 17 and 24. Around one-seventh of the State’s electorate of 7.89 crore will vote on Thursday.