The poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, nicknamed the "Heart of India", will vote on Wednesday to either give the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a fourth successive term in power or give a chance to the challenger grand old party Congress to break the saffron party's monopoly over power for the last 15 years.
In Madhya Pradesh, the contest is mainly between the BJP and the Congress though the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are also in the fray.
The campaign has been high decibel, often marked by bitter personal attacks, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi leading the charge of their parties.
The BJP is banking on the image of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and its organisational structure. Party president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley campaigned in the state.
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The Congress put up a spirited fight by raising issues concerning people and putting up a united fight by keeping the issue of leadership at bay. Rahul Gandhi sought to rejuvenate the state unit by appointing Kamal Nath as the party chief in April this year and naming Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP, as the campaign chief.
Congress leaders have sought to highlight the problems of farmers, the poor, middle class and youths in their rallies holding, especially holding demonetisation and GST as the reasons for the agrarian distress and traders' plight.
Rahul Gandhi attacked Modi and his government on issues of corruption and promises made in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and by Shivraj Chauhan in the 2013 elections. He has promised a farm loan waiver within 10 days of Congress coming power.
National issues like the surgical strike, construction of Ram temple, caste and dynasty were raised with the campaign barely revolving around the issue the development.
Modi attacked the Congress on corruption, dynasty politics and several other issues and gave accounts of the achievements of the state and his own government.
Among the 2,907 candidates in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has fielded candidates for all 230 seats while the Congress is contesting in 229 seats leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for Sharad Yadav-led LJD.
The BSP has fielded 227 candidates and the SP is contesting 51 seats. There are 1,102 independent candidates.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), contesting the Madhya Pradesh elections for the first time, has fielded 208 candidates.
The highest number of candidates – 34 – are in the Mehgaon constituency in Bhind district, while the lowest – 4 – is at Gunnor in Panna district.
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All eyes on Budhni constituency:
The keenly watched constituency will be Budhni, the home turf of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Congress has pitted former Union minister and former Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief Arun Yadav against him.
According to the final electoral roll, the state has 5,04,95,251 voters – 2,63,01,300 males, 2,41,30,390 females, 1,389 third gender and 62,172 postal electors.
State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) V L Kantha Rao said 3,00,782 government employees, including 45,904 women, have been deployed on poll duty at 65,367 booths set up across the state, which has a 230-member Assembly.
17,000 of these polling booths have been declared sensitive and additional vigil will be maintained on them.
Physically challenged employees would manage 160 booths, while 3,046 polling centres would have all-woman staff.
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1.80 lakh security personnel:
As many as 1.80 lakh security personnel will be deployed to maintain peace and ensure free and fair voting during the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls.
Counting of votes will be held on December 11.
In the last polls, of the 230 seats, the BJP won 165, Congress 58, BSP four and independents three.
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(With inputs from agencies)