The Uttar Pradesh legislature has 403 seats and a party or coalition must win at least 202 to form government. The contest, seen as a bellwether for national elections in 2019, is between the BJP, the ruling Samajwadi Party along with partner Congress and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, which is looking to script a comeback in the state.
To win 202 or 50 per cent seats this year, a party will need to get 35 per cent of the vote share, the "Snake of Victory" shows below. Five years ago, the Samajwadi Party had needed just 29 per cent of the vote share to win 226 seats. Mayawati's party had won only 80 seats with 26 per cent votes.
The two regional heavyweights saw a steep fall two years later, with the BJP and its ally Apna Dal sweeping the 2014 general election, winning 71 of UP's 80 seats with 42 per cent of the vote share.
The BJP can afford to lose 7 per cent of its vote share from 2014 to still win this year, while Samajwadi Party-Congress must gain 6 per cent to reach 35 per cent, and Mayawati's party will have to stretch about 15 per cent to win.
The BJP is counting on its core support base - urban voters, the youth and general caste voters - to back it and hopes to retain the support of non-Jatav Dalits who swung towards the party in 2014. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav hopes to consolidate his party's traditional Muslim-Yadav vote bank with his partnership with the Congress and is also targeting the Muslims who may vote for the BSP. Mayawati's party is seeking to consolidate its hold in rural UP, the woman vote and the Jatav Dalits. It wants to win back the support of non-Jatav Dalits who voted for the BJP in 2014 and has fielded about 100 Muslim candidates to win support from that community.
Chances of winning will depend on how much the parties can retain swing votes as explained below.
The seventh and last round of elections in UP will be held on March 8. Votes will be counted on March 11, Saturday next.
Watch the entire episode of the Battleground - Uttar Pradesh here.