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Mumbai: Polling for 288 Assembly constituencies of Maharashtra began at 7 am today and will end at 6 pm. The voter turnout till 3 pm was only 31.54 per cent, significantly down when compared to the turnout till 2 pm in 2014.

Alarmed by the low turnout, celebrities, political leaders including PM Modi appealed to people to step out and take part in the voting, with similar messages flooding social media, and volunteers going door-to-door to bring out the voters in some areas.

Prominent celebrities, including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, leading Bollywood personalities like Aamir Khan and top politicians like Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Narayan Rane, Chandrakant Patil, Raj Thackeray, Nawab Malik, Mangalprabhat Lodha, state and central ministers and many more, exercised their franchise with families across the state.

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EC officials are optimistic that the slow start may have been due to rain in many parts of the state including Mumbai and the voting would pick up subsequently.

3,237 candidates are in the fray for the polls to the 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly. Of the total candidates, there are only 236 women and the remaining 3,001 are male candidates. Among all the candidates, the BJP has announced 164 candidates, Sena 126, Congress 147, NCP 121, MNS 101, BSP 262, VBA 288, CPI 16, CPI(M) 8, Other Registered Parties 604 and the remaining are 1,400 Independent candidates.

Over 8.9 crore people are eligible to vote in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election. Out of these, the number of male voters are 4.69 crore (4,69,90,246), the number of female voters are 4.28 crore (4,28,46,720), and the number of voters from the third-gender are 2,634.

Candidates include Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, former CMs Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan, Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray. The MNS has fielded 101 candidates. About 1,400 Independent candidates are also in the fray.

For the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP and Shiv Sena are contesting in an alliance, while the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP are contesting together in the other big alliance.

In the 2014 elections, the BJP won 122 seats, the Sena-63, the Congress-42 and the NCP-41. (Full Coverage here)

Nearly 3 lakh police personnel have been deployed across the state to ensure smooth and peaceful elections.  Apart from 2 lakh police personnel from the state police, additional 350 companies of CISF, CRPF and Nagaland Women Police have been deployed at 96 thousand 661 polling stations.

Notably, the last date to file nominations was October 4 and the date scheduled for the scrutiny of nomination letters was October 5. Campaigning in Maharashtra concluded on October 19 and the counting of votes will be held on October 24.