The BJP's hopes of retaining Maharashtra has been boosted by the exit polls - 11 exit polls have predicted a thumping victory for the state's ruling alliance. The only difference was in the margin of victory they predicted - ranging from 197 seats predicted by TV-9-Marathi and a landslide 243 seats predicted by CNN News18-IPSOS.
An aggregate of 11 exit polls indicate that the BJP-Shiv Sena combine will end up with 211 seats - slightly lower than the 217 seats they currently hold. The Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party might manage to win 64 seats, a shade higher than 56 seats they scraped together last time.
Maharashtra has 288 seats and the halfway mark is at 144.
Exit polls, however, do not always get it right.
For this round of elections, the BJP had continued its alliance with Shiv Sena, despite their rocky relationship over the last five years. After a break-up ahead of 2014 polls, the two parties had come together when the state delivered a split verdict. The Congress and the NCP, which too had split ahead of the elections, found their numbers hugely depleted.
This time, the factionalised Congress had been struggling to cope with its devastating loss in the Lok Sabha polls. The longtime vacuum at the top following Rahul Gandhi's decision to step down in May -- resolved only at the eleventh hour with the choice of Sonia Gandhi as the party chief -- had led to unrest in its state unit. The run-up to the election was marked by rebellions, defections and a lackluster campaign.
It was left to Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party to offer a counter to the BJP. But the NCP is also facing challenges, with its top leadership being investigated in corruption cases.
Party chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar are battling charges filed the Enforcement Directorate in a case related to alleged irregularities at a cooperative bank. Ahead of the election, its senior leader and former union minister Praful Patel was questioned by the agency regarding a an alleged property deal between him and Hajra, the wife of Iqbal Mirchi - an aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
The BJP, meanwhile, had stuck to its formula of a high-powered campaign, pushing in its top leadership - Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief and union minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath -- for multiple rallies across the state.
Giving a go-by to the local issues -- including a farm crisis and high rate of farmer suicides -- the party focussed almost exclusively on national issues, especially the scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the National Registry of Citizens, which the Centre wants to take across the country.
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