Lucknow: About 11.4 crore voters are eligible to cast their ballots in the month-long, seven-phase Uttar Pradesh election that begins on 7 April.
No party is expected to win an outright majority in an election that is in focus for reasons beyond the sheer numbers, coming two years ahead of the general election.
So pundits will scrutinise the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), likely to emerge as the third largest party in the state.
A strong showing by the BJP would mark its national revival after a shock electoral defeat in the 2004 general election and its subsequent loss of political direction. The Congress has long struggled in Uttar Pradesh and is trailing a distant fourth place in polls. But it could find itself completely excluded from power. That would be a symbolic blow for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress-led government at the Centre.
The nature of the voter has also changed. Pollsters say that while parties have built up support on caste and religious community lines, development, crime and the economy are more important to voters. Increasingly, people complain about rising inflation.