The Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra is likely to get another five year term as majority of exit polls predict a third term in office for the ruling combination. Post-poll surveys also indicate the emergence of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) as a major political force. According to preliminary reports, around 60% of the over 7.3 crore voters exercised their franchise. In 2004, 63% of voters had cast their votes. Various exit polls predict continuation of the ruling alliance. According to one exit poll, the Congress-NCP combine will come within striking distance of forming government in the 288-member House. This survey says the Congress-NCP will bag 125 seats, in which the Congress’ share will be 73, two less than the previous election, and the NCP’s 52, a steep drop of 19 seats. This survey says the Sena-BJP will win 119 seats (Shiv Sena 63 and BJP 56). This means the saffron combine will improve its tally by nine seats from the last election. However, MNS’ performance is the standout factor of this survey. According to the study, the threeyear-old outfit will win as many as 18 seats, which could give its chief Raj Thackeray a king-maker status. Another post-poll survey carried out by a Marathi newspaper has given the Congress-NCP coalition a clear mandate with 155 seats (Congress 82 and NCP 73). It has left only 97 seats for the saffron combine (Shiv Sena 49 and BJP 48). The MNS will not get more than 4 seats, while independents will bag 16 seats.

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