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The great numbers game
- Vital statistics that make the Maharashtra poll what it is

Mumbai, Oct. 12: Fourteen litres of India Ink, 30 brushes, 62 soft pencils, one hard pencil, 27 rubbers, 1984 sheets of paper, 16 typewriter ribbons, two typewriters and 366 pints of beer went into the creation of Asterix and Cleopatra, the greatest story ever drawn.

Here's a beginner's guide to what is going into the Maharashtra Assembly polls here tomorrow, the greatest battle ever fought ' after the Lok Sabha elections this year.

A total of 288 constituencies, 65 million voters, 2,678 candidates, including 1,083 Independents, and in Mumbai, almost the entire strength of the city's 39,000-strong policemen who are being sucked out of the Ganapati festival-Navratri circuit.

150-plus banners of revolt: The Congress expelled 47, the Nationalist Congress Party 13 and the BJP five of its leaders when they turned 'rebels'. The Shiv Sena is still shaken and wondering what to say, for this is the first time there is such widespread rebellion in its ranks. At the last count, about 150-odd 'rebels' are threatening the prospect of candidates from the major parties.

Four gentle persuaders: To woo back the rebels, the Congress deployed AICC observer Digvijay Singh, the NCP Sharad Pawar, the Shiv Sena Narayan Rane and the BJP Gopinath Munde, whose manager Phoolchand Karad himself has run away and joined the NCP.

One Mayavati: She is fielding candidates from 272 seats and promising that the BSP will lead to a 'chamkanewala nateeja' (surprise outcome) in Maharashtra. Expected to win a few seats in Vidarbha and eat into the Congress votes throughout the state.

One Pramod Mahajan: Kept a low-profile, touring and touring rural Maharashtra.

One Sharad Pawar: Oozing confidence.

One Sushil Kumar Shinde: Chief minister, afraid of losing from his constituency in Sholapur.

One powerful beard: Grown by Sena chief Bal Thackeray, with the promise that it will not be put to blade till his party wins.One ill-timed endoscopy: it kept Thackeray away from the districts, which could have made a difference in a dozen-odd seats.

One Sonia Gandhi: Tried to revive the road show magic that cast a spell during the Lok Sabha polls. Saturday's result will show whether it worked again.

One incumbent PM and one former PM: Manmohan Singh debuted on the solo campaign stage, Atal Bihari Vajpayee kept Thackeray more or less on leash.

One reformed don and one brother of a don: Arun Gawli is a frontrunner in his seat. Deepak Nikhalje is contesting despite a red signal from elder brother Chhota Rajan.

Two dozen meetings: Held by the Shiv Sena to woo Hindi-speaking voters alone after suddenly waking up to the value of their votes.

29,000 malnutrition deaths and other home truths: Deaths of children in tribal areas, the stamp paper scam, farmers' deaths, communal riots, bomb blasts and dismal power situation -- none of which any party could convert into an election issue.

One demand for statehood: Call for Vidarbha state dropped by the Congress, because the NCP did not approve.

One hectic calculation: On the portfolios in the future ministry, which cannot have more than 44 members. If there is a hung verdict, willing rebel-cum-Independents ' most of who are rich anyway -- would demand power, not pelf.

Loose change: Hundreds of Veer Savarkar portraits and no film star of any note.

Miscellany: 12 lakh bottles of beer, 17,898 bottles of Indian whisky and 30,657 bottles of dark rum either consumed or stacked up ' today, tomorrow and October 16 are dry days.

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