Battle lines have been drawn for the November 28 Madhya Pradesh elections in which 2,907 candidates are in the fray for 230 assembly seats.
Stakes are high for the BJP as the Congress is going all out to wrest power from the saffron party, which has been ruling the state for 15 years.
It is believed that the election will be a direct political battle between the BJP and the Congress.
While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government will try to win for the fourth consecutive term, the Congress will fight for winning the state after 2003.
It is also a major battle between former state Congress chief Arun Yadav and the incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as they are set for a face-off with each other in Budhni on Wednesday.
Yadav has admitted that the battle against Chouhan on his home turf is “challenging” but also insisted the people’s anger against the BJP, particularly against the Chief Minister himself, will translate into votes for the Congress and bring the party to power in the state after 15 years.
Chouhan first won the Budhni seat in 1990. After a long tenure in the Lok Sabha, he returned to Budhni, where he was re-elected in 2006 and retained the seat in 2008 and 2013.
Fifteen candidates are in the fray in Budhni, with both the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielding their candidates.
Meanwhile, an unfazed Shivraj Singh Chouhan said pro-incumbency and not ant-incumbency, was at play in the central Indian state.
The highest number of 34 candidates will lock horns in Mehgaon constituency in Bhind district, while the lowest number of four nominees will battle it out in Gunnor seat in Panna district, an EC official said.
According to the EC official, there are 1,102 independent candidates in the fray.
Of the major parties, only the BJP has fielded candidates on all 230 seats.
The Congress is contesting on 229 seats and has left one seat — Jatara in Tikamgarh district — for the LJD.
The Congress, which was unsuccessful in forging a pre-poll alliance with Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav-led-Samajwadi Party, later joined hands with Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) for the election.
The BSP has fielded 227 candidates and the SP is contesting on 51 seats.
Madhya Pradesh BSP president Pradeep Ahirwar said there is a strong anti-incumbency wave against the BJP. He added that Dalit unity would work in the party’s favour and help it win 32 seats.
SP national spokesman Jagdev Singh Yadav too claimed his party would win at least 10 seats.
The Aam Aadmi Party, contesting the Madhya Pradesh election for the first time, has fielded 208 candidates.
In the last assembly elections, of the total 230 seats, the BJP had won 165 seats, Congress 58, BSP four and independents three.
As per the final electoral rolls, the state has 5,04,95,251 voters, including 2,63,01,300 males, 2,41,30,390 females and 1,389 third gender voters. In addition, there are 62,172 voters who can exercise their franchise through postal ballots.
Counting of votes would take place on December 11.