Bhopal: In what may be considered a ‘semi-final’ ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Madhya Pradesh will vote on Wednesday to elect a 230-member assembly with both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress vying for supremacy.

While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government eyes a fourth straight term in office, the Congress is hoping to turn the tide in the state which was once its stronghold.

The 5.04 crore eligible voters in the state will decide the fate of 2,899 candidates, including 1,094 independents, who are in fray for the 230 seats. 1.80 lakh security personnel have been deployed on duty to ensure peaceful polling.

The polling will be held from 8 am to 5 pm in 227 seats, while in three assembly segments in Naxal-affected Balaghat district – Lanji, Paraswada and Baihar – voting time will be from 7 am to 3 pm.

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While the main contest is between the BJP and the Congress, other parties in the fray are the Bahujan Samaj Party, alliance partners Samajwadi Party and Gondwana Gantantra Party, and the Aam Admi Party.

Madhya Pradesh is the largest of five states going for polls and contributes the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha (29) among them.

The BJP is contesting all the 230 seats, while the Congress has fielded 229 candidates, leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for its ally – Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in office since 2005, is seeking re-election from Budhni in Sehore district.

The BSP has fielded 227 candidates, while the SP is contesting on 52 seats. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), contesting the Madhya Pradesh elections for the first time, has fielded 208 candidates.

While Chouhan is fighting the strong anti-incumbency factor in the state, he is banking on the several welfare schemes launched by his government that include the Sambal Yojana, PM Housing Scheme and Ladli Laxmi Yojana.

He also boasts of bring all-round development in the state and getting it out of the “bimaru” condition.

On the other hand, the Congress – for whom the Madhya Pradesh polls will decide the future course of action and its chances in the 2019 battle – is battling the perception of a divided house.

Reports have been rife that the Congress is witnessing intense infighting over ticket distribution for the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls. The BJP attacked the Grand Old Party saying that Rahul Gandhi is “confused”, and the Congress under him is “defused”.

Hitting on the fact that the poll-bound state has a high rate of farmers’ suicides, Rahul Gandhi announced that his party will wave off farms loans within 10 days of coming to power. The BJP called the promise a lie.

The Congress, however, may face the consequences of failing to forge alliance with the BSP, the SP and the Gondwana Gantantra over seat sharing. In case of a fractured mandate, these regional forces could be at the helm of affairs or play kingmaker.

An average of the several pre-poll surveys held in the recent months predicts 114 seats for the BJP, 106 for the Congress and 10 for others. This means a neck and neck neck fight can be expected in tomorrow’s battle with no visible wave for any of the parties.