It is also time to hazard a guess on the poll outcome. Irrespective of which party wins and which loses, the Congress appears to be having an edge in four of the five states. In Rajasthan, the Congress appears to be sweeping the poll. There are many interesting contests in the desert state. Besides being the home town of Jaswant Singh, mineral rich Jasol has two celebrated sons; one a politician, the other is a war hero. BJP veteran Jaswant Singh was India’s Defence and Finance minister till he broke away from the BJP; his cousin Lt. Gen Hanut Singh, was the hero of 1971 Indo-Pak war. Neither of them used Jasol surname, which Jaswant Singh son, Manvendra Sing, a member of the outgoing assembly has started using.

Elected from Barmer’s Sheo constituency in 2013 on BJP ticket, he has since joined the Congress and is the party candidate against Chief Minister VasundharaRaje at Jhalrapatan in Hadoti region.

Contrary to reports that the Congress is divided in Madhya Pradesh, the three biggies — Divijay Singh, Kamal Nath, and Jyotiraditya Scindia— have sunk differences; more importantly the cadre is totally united. They believe if they lose this time, they are sunk for ever. It is do or die matter for them.

So far the BJP is concerned, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan suffers from heavy anti-incumbency, besides gigantic corruption allegations, as in Vyapam. The state voters are crying for jobs, opportunities elsewhere and Kisans are very unhappy with the establishment. They want loan waver but, despite promise, government failed to write off debts. As Chauhan battles to retain power for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term, the index of rising expectations reveals a stark mismatch between aspiration and reality.

Yes, there’s more electricity and better roads, but how to make leap from subsistence to well-being, from survival to enterprise, from staying alive to wealth creation? If an all powerful ‘sarkar’ traps citizens in its vice-grip, fuelling dependence on the state and refusing to allow genuine freedom in economy how can the next stage of development take place?

Initially, the BJP appeared to have an edge over the Congress in Chhattisgarh but the situation changed as poll came nearer. It was thought Mayawati—Congress rebel Ajit Jogi combine will wean away Congress votes but as it subsequently turned out the combine damaged both the Congress and the BJP. So the fight has become neck and neck. It will not be a surprise if the BJP scrapes through.

Election in down south—Telangana—has turned on expected lines. Congress-- Chandrababu Naidu alliance appears to be lagging behind K. Chandrashekar Rao. These elections are crucial test for KCR’s governance model; his wide ranging welfare schemes versus unfulfilled promises.

The support for KCR goes back to his role in creating Telangana—‘Jai Telangana’ slogans dominate his rallies. After his 2014 electoral victories, he finds support due to his expansive welfare politics. It has been five years and he has not delivered on his promises yet he appears to be forging ahead.

Congress might have been wiped out from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh by committing the blooper of dividing Andhra, its bastion for long, but the party has deep roots in the region. That has come to the fore but KCR’s popularity appears to be intact. Chandrababu Naidu too is a mass leader. He was the Chief Minister of undivided Andhra and is also the CM of present Andhra after the split but that was not reflected in this election.

A senior Hyderabad journalist, who wants to remain anonymous points to increasing similarities between KCR and the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s rule. They both were in complete control of their respective parties. They relied on welfare schemes to reach poor. They were inaccessible, turning only to their confidantes. Jayalalithaa battled corruption and KCR battles a perception of wealth accumulation.

“A disconnect grows between CM and MLAs, between CM and the people and between MLAs and the people”, the journalist said.

This round of five election matters for both the national parties. For one, it is sheer timing. Coming four months before the national elections, it has been billed as the semi finals.

The presence of strong local leaders and local issues also makes it different. But what is true is that three states-MP, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh there is a bipolar contest. The BJP’s ability to retain power and the congress’ ability to challenge it is on test, as will be the case in 2019. Two, the BJP, after string of by -polls defeats in Parliament election and being pipped at the post by Opposition unity in Karnataka, is keen to prove that it remains politically dominant and reverse the perception of a slide. The Congress, which has displayed greater energy and sharp aggression under Rahul Gandhi, wants to prove that it can convert this into electoral energies. (IPA Service)