Stakes are high in Andhra Pradesh because more than 50 million voters will not only decided who will rule them for the next five years but the verdict of AP electorate will also decide the course of events in the national politics.
As the electorates in 13 of the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh get ready to vote in the first phase on Thursday, there is indication of serious trouble for the ruling Congress party in the state.
The Grand Alliance comprising of the Telugu Desam, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist seems to be surging past a lonely Congress at least in the first phase. An analysis of the electoral equations, the relative strengths of the parties and candidates, the response of the people to their various promises and the general mood of the voters suggest that the Congress has lost its initial supremacy and edge over its opponents.
News was still bad for the newly launched Praja Rajyam party of mega-star Chiranjeevi as it was lagging far behind and was no where to be seen in the entire Telangana region.
Of the 154 assembly seats and the 22 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls on Thursday, the ruling Congress was ahead only in about 50 to 60 seats and the Grand Alliance was comfortably placed in about 80 seats of assembly.
In Lok Sabha, TDP and its allies are expected to be ahead in 10 seats, while the Congress in six, and there is a keen contest in five other seats.
The Hyderabad seat will remain loyal to the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and the Owaisi family, which has won the seat in all the elections since 1984.
While Union minister Renuka Chowdhary was down in Khammam, another Union minister Jaipal Reddy seems to be ahead in Chevella, despite internal problems of the Congress.
Another minister of state D Purandeswari was locked in a multi-cornered contest in Visakhapatanam constituency. Situation continues to be hazy in Mahbubnagar where maverick Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhara Rao is contesting against sitting Congress MP Vitthal Rao. Similarly in Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency , where the state Bharatiya Janata Party president Bandaru Dattatreya was contesting against sitting Congress MP Anjan Kumar Yadav and a TDP candidate, the contest will surely witness a close finish.
The TDP and allies are ahead in Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Nalgonda, Bhongir, Medak, Zaheerabad, Adilabad, Mahbubabad and Khammam. The Congress is better placed in six Lok Sabha constituencies Araku (ST), Nagarkurnool (SC), Chevella, Nizamabad, Peddapalle and Krimnagar.
In the assembly elections TDP's alliance with TRS has paid rich dividends in parts of Telangana region. Out of the 119 assembly seats in the region, the TDP was ahead in 58 and its allies TRS, CPI and CPIM in 14 seats. There was a keen tussle in seven constituencies in the region.
Congress, fighting alone, was ahead in 45 assembly seats in Telangana and its friend MIM was ahead in 8 assembly seats in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district.
In the three north coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam, of the total thirty three assembly seats, TDP was ahead in 14, Congress in 10 and the Praja Rajyam party in 2. There was a tough contest in the remaining constituencies.
The Lok Satta party president led by former Indian Administrative Services officer Jayprakash Narayan was likely to win the urban seat of Kukatpally in Hyderabd and BJP was likely to win Amberpet in Hyderabad.
Though giving exact figures may not be scientific, some broader contours have already started emerging. For instance the much promised "silent revolution" of Chiranjeevi is no where to be seen. It seems, Chiranjeevi in chief minister's role will remain an idea for a film script only.
At the best he is likely to win about two dozen assembly seats and a couple of Lok Sabha seats, but in case of a hung assembly, he will be in great demand. His hopes of securing a respectable number of assembly seats hinge completely on second phase when his home turf of Godavari belt goes to poll on April 23.
The TRS is managing to survive, despite holding the hand of the TDP. It will not be able to repeat the 2004 results when it had won 5 Lok Sabha and 26 assembly seats. Left was doing well in its stronghold of Nalgonda and Khammam district. The CPI and the CPI-M are sure to retain their 1 Lok Sabha seat each. But whether their combined strength of 17 in assembly will remain intact, was not clear.
The fight has largely been between the Congress and the TDP. But if the pattern of first phase overlaps on to the second phase, YS Rajasekhara Reddy may not be able to perform the feat of returning for the second consecutive term and may have to make the way for his bete noire Chandrababu Naidu.