Ten of Maharashtra's 48 Lok Sabha constituencies, including three reserved for Scheduled Castes, will go to the polls on Thursday (April 18).
They are: Buldhana, Akola, Amravati (SC), Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur (SC) and Solapur (SC), with the main contests between ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena and Opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party, besides the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) Dalit-Muslim front.
There are several key contests among these seats, eight of which are held by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena while two went with the Opposition Congress while weathering the 'Modi wave' of 2014,
Here are brief snapshots of the 10 constituencies.
BULDHANA, considered a Sena bastion since 1999, the party has retained sitting MP Prataprao G. Jadhav who will lock horns with the NCP's Rajendra Shingane in the constituency, with a total electorate of 15,96,234 including 8,45,547 males and 7,50,687 females.
AKOLA will be a major contest as Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh's Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of the architect of Indian Constitution, B. R. Ambedkar, had won the constituency twice - 1998 and 1999 - but was defeated by the BJP's Sanjay S. Dhotre in 2004.
In a triangular battle this time, BJP's Dhotre will lock horns with the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) comprising Ambedkar's BBM and and the Owaisi brothers' AIMIM and Congress' strongman Hidayatulla B. Patel. The constituency has 16,46,463 voters, including 8,69,922 males and 7,76,547 females, and a 20 per cent Scheduled Caste ratio.
AMRAVATI (SC), mostly a rural agrarian region, will see veteran four-time Sena MP Anandrao V. Adsul grapple with the glamourous South Indian actress Navneet Kaur Rana of the Yuva Swabhiman Party (YSP), supported by the Congress-NCP led 56-party Mahagathbandhan.
Close to the BJP bigwigs, her husband is Ravi Rana, an independent legislator from Badnera and nephew of yoga guru Baba Ramdev. The SC reserved constituency has 16,11,365 voters, including 8,48,050 males and 7,63,315 females.
However, the Congress has fielded Wankhede, who recently walked over to the party and will lock horns with the Sena's Hemant Patil, a sitting MLA from Nanded South . The constituency has 15,86,194 voters, including 8,39,540 males and 7,46,645 females.
He will lock horns with BJP's Pratap Patil-Chikhalikar in the constituency, which has 16,87,057 voters including 8,78,553 males and 8,08,504 females in the heart of the backward Marathwada region.
PARBHANI, another Sena stronghold, is currently held by Sanjay H. Jadhav who is locking horns in a triangular contest with the NCP's Rajesh U. Vitekar and the CPI-M's R.R. Kshirsagar, besides the VBA.
The rural-agro economy based constituency has 18,03,792 voters including 9,45,899 males and 8,57,893 females.
BEED is a BJP bastion represented by Pritam Gopinath Munde, who secured the higest-ever victory margin of over 6,96,000 votes in a 2014 by-election after her father, union minister Gopinath Munde's sudden death.
She is contesting against the NCP's Bajrang M. Sonwane, a grassroots worker who has climbed his way to national politics in the constituency, with 17,92,650 voters, including 9,63,462 men and 8,29,188 women.
OSMANABAD will witness the only family tussle for supremacy with Sena nominee Omraje Nimbalkar grappling with his cousin and NCP candidate Ranajagjitsinh Patil. Patil's father, Padamsinh Patil is an accused in the murder of Nimbalkar's father, Pawanraje Nimbalkar of the Congress.
Osmanabad is the only seat in the state where five out of the six assembly legislators are from Congress-NCP and one from Sena, with a total 85 percent rural electorate of 17,26,793, including 9,32,838 males and 7,93,955 females.
LATUR (SC) is an erstwhile Congress bastion, where the party has fielded its local spice king, Machhindra Kamant, against the BJP's Sudhakar B. Shrungare, a realtor who was nominated in place of sitting MP Sunil B. Gaikwad.
The region which was devastated in the September 1993 earthquake and recovered, has a total electorate of 16,82,607 including 8,98,919 males and 7,84,688 females.
SOLAPUR (SC) will be among the hottest contests with Congress' three-time MP, former Union Home Minister and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde grappling with BJP's Mahaswami Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya and VBA's Prakash Ambedkar (who is also contesting from Akola).
The constituency's demographic profile - with a near-equal mix of Dalits, minorities, Marathas and Lingayats - makes it an open contest among the trio, but the Congress-BJP appear to be more wary of the VBA than each other.
Solapur has 17,02,754 voters including 893,736 males and 8,09,019 females.
Seven constituencies in Maharashtra had voted in the first phase on April 11. The remaining 31 constituencies will vote in the third and fourth phases on April 23 and April 29.
(Quaid Najmi can be reached at email@example.com)
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