Mumbai: A day after the process ended for filing of nominations for the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections, stage was set here on Saturday for the 14-day long campaign, which promises to be a brief but blaring affair. All the major political parties announced their exhaustive 40-strong list each of star-campaigners and election veterans, who will tour the state soliciting votes for their respective candidates braving blistering October heat over the next fortnight.
The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has named a regal team led by PM Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, JP Nadda and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The other core members would be a retinue of Central Ministers like Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, Smruti Irani, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Purushottam K. Rupala, Raosaheb Patil-Danve and G. Kisan Reddy. The next rung comprises Chief Ministers - Devendra Fadnavis, Yogi Adityanath, Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM Laxman Savadi (Karnataka) and Keshavprasad Maurya (UP).
There will also be top BJP functionaries like Vice-President Vasundhararaje Scindia, V Satish, Saroj Pandey and Bhupendra Yadav. The list has Maharashtra leaders led by state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, and even a couple of sulking functionaries like Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, who were denied tickets – completing the party's 'campaign army' - and a similar one, which was uncharitably labelled by ally Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray as "Afzal Khan ki fauj" in 2014!
The Congress list boasts of former PM Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Shatrughan Sinha, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad. A galaxy of former Union ministers, as well as former and current state CMs like Kamal Nath, Mukul Wasnik, Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Ashok Gehlot will also contribute their might to the poll campaign. Other notables include state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, former actress Nagma Morarji, Vijay Wadettiwar, Nana Patole, Nitin Raut, Manikrao Thakare, Sahin Sawant, Hussain Dalwai, Naseem Khan, Kumar Ketkar and Charulata Tokas.
Though emaciated in recent months due to deserters, the NCP has managed an impressive line-up of star campaigners starting with party president Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel, Supriya Sule, Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Dhananjay Munde, Majeed Memon. Other prominent ones include Nawab Malik, Sunil Tatkare, Dilip Walse-Patil, Arun Gujrathi, Anil Deshmukh, Jitendra Awhad, Hasan Mushrif, Anna Dange, Fauzia Khan, Narendra Verma, actor Amol Kolhe, and state Women NCP Wing chief Sakshana Salgar.
While the Shiv Sena has not officially declared its list yet, party sources indicate that the major burden of the campaign will be borne by party chief Uddhav Thackeray, his son Aditya, senior leaders like Subhash Desai, Diwakar Raote, Ramdas Kadam, Kishore Tiwari, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sanjay Dina Patil and others. From the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the star campaigner will be its chief Raj Thackeray, Shalini Thackeray, Bala Nandgaonkar, Sandip Deshpande, Nitin Sardesai and Yeshwant Killedar.
However, it is not clear whether Raj Thackeray - who had ruffled the polity with his 'Laav re Video' (Play the Video) in the last Lok Sabha polls - would resort to a similar strategy since the party is contesting this time in many seats. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to have its national leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal touring the state, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi will be spearheaded by its chief Prakash Ambedkar, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen will have chief Asaduddin Owasi and Syed Imtiaz Jaleel leading its campaign.