New Delhi: The stage is finally set for Assembly polls in four states - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram - and the National Capital Delhi. The elections results will be known on December 8 and are being touted as the semi-final ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2014 April/May.
The fight is between the Congress and the BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. In the tiny state of Mizoram, the ruling Congress is facing the Mizo National Front (MNF).
The Congress is in power in Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP has been in power for the past 10 years. For the first time, Delhi is witnessing a high decibel triangular contest with the newly founded Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal in the fray as a serious contender.
Here is a look at why these elections are important nationally:
There are the last Assembly polls before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh will see straight fight between Congress and BJP with the AAP trying to prove that it can give the two big parties a run for their money in Delhi.
The results will be a referendum of sorts on both Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi who have unveiled their own vision of India. Victories for Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh on Chhattisgarh will keep them in good stead for national roles.
A victory for Shiela Dikshit in Delhi will increase her clout within the Congress immensely for being the only four-time Chief Minister in Delhi. A good performance from Arvind Kejriwal of AAP in Delhi will see the birth of a parallel political force in country
The Congress wrested Rajasthan from the BJP in 2008. The BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje was dealt a body blow by the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress.
Gehlot rode to power making Vasundhra's corruption a major issue in the election. The tables seem to have turned now. Vasundhara Raje, who is desperately trying for a second chance after 5 years in the opposition, is making the corruption of Gehlot government a major issue.
Simple and down to earth, Gehlot is also facing internal rebellion. Union Minister CP Joshi who lost the chief minister's post to Gehlot in 2008 is trying to make a comeback. A series of sex scandals involving his cabinet colleagues is also causing a lot worry for Gehlot.
BJP's Vasundhara Raje, whose political future rests on her party's performance in the polls, is also facing a lot of trouble from the RSS. It is a very well known fact that the RSS is not comfortable with her. BJP's Rajasthan election in charge Nitin Gadkari is trying to resolve the issue.
Gehlot is going to polls with the development agenda. He claims that his government has delivered on most issues. He rubbishes the allegations of corruption as baseless.
According to poll watchers, Gehlot can still retain power, if the Congress puts up a united fight. The BJP is hoping that it will surely cross the halfway mark.
Winning Rajasthan back is very important for the BJP to win more Lok Sabha seats for it s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from Rajasthan. Last time Congress won 20 out of 25 Lok Seats in the state. BJP won just 5 seats.
The state is witnessing a close contest. It is a 'do or die' battle for both Congress and BJP.
Rajasthan Result 2008
Total Seats - 200
Congress - 96, BJP - 78, Independents - 14, BSP - 6, CPI(M) - 3, LSP - 1 JDU - 1
It is a keenly watched contest in Madhya Pradesh where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan looks comfortable. Most pre-poll surveys in the last one year have given high popularity ratings to him. His easy going nature, humility and accessibility have endeared him to the people in the last 8 years. He is also not facing any internal rebellion.
According to political analysts, anti-incumbency at the local level may harm his chances of retaining power. Many of his MLAs, ministers and officials are facing corruption charges.
But, two things are in his favour. His own personality and a faction ridden Congress. Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, Union Minister Jyotirtadithya Scindhia, former union minister Suresh Pachauri and Union Minister Kamalnath are fighting with each other for supremacy.
Leader of the opposition Ajay Singh is hoping that he will be made the chief minister, if the Congress makes a comeback. Madhya Pradesh has a total 29 Lok Sabha seats. Last time the BJP won 18 and the Congress won 11 seats in 2009.
The Congress needs to get a respectable score in the to stay in the race for single largest national party in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Will the BSP which, managed to secure almost 9 per cent of votes in 2008, improve its performance?
Madhya Pradesh Result - 2008
Total - 230 Seats
BJP - 143, Congress - 71, BSP - 7, BJSP - 5, Independents - 3 and SP - 1.
The Naxal-infested Chhatisgarh is also a keenly watched state. Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has been in power since 2003 is trying to win his third consecutive election. He is banking on the welfare schemes introduced by him in the last 10 years. The opposition Congress is citing law and order problem and rampant corruption in the state.
The Congress suffered a huge setback when its top state leadership including state Congress president Nandkumar Patel, leader of the opposition Mahendra Karma, former Union minister VC Shukla and many others were killed in a gruesome manner by the Naxals in early 2013.
The state Congress is finding it difficult to take on the BJP. Former chief minister Ajit Jogi is also playing politics, much to the discomfort his own Congress.
Out of total 11 Lok Sabha seats, Congress won just 1 seats and the BJP secured 10 in 2009.
Chhattisgarh Result - 2008
Total - 90 Seats
BJP - 50, Congress - 38, BSP - 2.
The contest is between Sheila Dikshit-led Congress, one of India's longest serving chief ministers, and the BJP. Sheila Dikshit, who has completed 3 consecutive terms as the Delhi Chief Minister is facing the toughest battle of her political career, this time.
With the entry of anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the political scenario has changed in the national capital. Kejriwal is targeting Sheila Dikshit, calling her corrupt. He claims that the AAP will come to power defeating the Congress.
But, pre-poll surveys predict that he will be a spoiler and expected to harm the BJP more than the Congress.
The BJP, which has been out of power for the past 15 years, is riding on the Modi wave. The saffron party has not been able to name its chief ministerial candidate due to infighting.
Sheila Dikshit is confident of winning her fourth consecutive term. But for the first time in the last 15 years, she is going to polls with a 'tainted' image. Some feel that it can cost her some seats.
Delhi has 7 Lok Sabha seats. Last time, the Congress swept all 7 seats.
Delhi Result - 2008
Total - 70 Seats
Congress - 43, BJP - 23, BSP - 2, LJP - 1, Independents - 1
The Assembly poll in tiny state of Mizoram in the North East is not attracting any national attention. It seems nobody in Delhi is worried about the outcome of the polls.
The Congress returned to power by defeating the Mizo National Front (MNF) in 2008. The MNF suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Congress for its alleged corruption.
The ruling Congress is hoping that it will retain the power. Mizoram has just 1 Lok Sabha seat. The Congress won that lone seat in 2009.
Mizoram Result - 2008
Total - 40 Seats
Congress - 32, MNF - 3, MPC - 2, ZNP - 2