In the last round of assembly elections in five states - seen as bellwether before next year's national elections -- Chhattisgarh is expected to be one of the few which will witness a very close fight between the BJP and the Congress. The state is one of the big three where the BJP is seeking another term in power -- in this case, a fourth term. Most opinion polls have given the BJP a wafer-thin majority. A poll of opinion polls predicted that the party is likely to get 45 seats in a 90-member assembly, where the halfway mark is at 46. The Congress is likely to get 35 seats and the newly minted Ajit Yogi-Mayawati combine may end up with five seats, the poll of opinion polls showed.
The BJP is contesting under the leadership of Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has helmed the state since 2013. The Congress has not named a chief ministerial candidate. While the party hopes to reap the benefit of anti-incumbency, it fears that its chances might be dented by the advent of the Ajit Yogi-Mayawati combine.
The BJP, which was neck-and-neck with Congress in the 2013 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, swept the state in the Lok Sabha elections a year later.
But post-2014, the tide turned in favour of the Congress in the panchayat elections.
In the 2013 assembly elections in the state, data shows a small swing in votes would have caused a huge difference in results.
Had the Congress tied up with Mayawati in 2013, the results would have changed in its favor.
Opinion polls conducted in 2014 showed the Congress has an edge in areas dominated by Scheduled Castes and Tribes, while the rest of the majority community tends to favour the BJP.
Opinion polls conducted that year also showed the BJP has the confidence of the first-time voters as well.
Traditionally, the BJP has shown strong numbers in the central and northeast belts of Chhattisgarh, while the Congress has an advantage in south and northwestern regions.
The demographic break-up of the voters according to the Census:
Chhattisgarh has 11 bellwether seats that will grab eyeballs as counting gets underway on December 11. The Jagdalpur constituency has always voted for the party that has won the state in the last 9 elections, Bijapur has picked the winner in the last six elections and is followed by Donargarh, which picked the winner in 5 polls.
Data suggests turnout has been on the rise in the state and since the 90s, more people have voted in the assembly elections than in the national elections.
Since 2003, the results of assembly polls have been a good benchmark for the national elections, not just in Chhattisgarh, but in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well.
Data also shows the winner of the assembly polls perform better in the national elections.
The population of Scheduled Castes is the highest in the state's northwestern areas, the concentration of tribals in the state's southern belt and the northeastern region.
All three parties have promised huge freebies -- rice, slippers, phones, electricity, health insurance, scooty for meritorious girl students and pilgrimage costs. It is, however, not known to what extent this influences the results.
Will BJP cross the half-way mark to retain power in Chhattisgarh? The opinion polls suggest:
The phase 1 of elections, held in 18 seats across Maoist-dominated areas on November 12, saw a high voter turnout.
The key factors -- from anti-incumbency, turnout and divided opposition to freebies -- that could have a bearing on the parties' chances on December 11.
Polling for the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly is being held in two phases. The first -in 18 seats across Maoist-hit areas -- was held on November 12. The next phase, in the rest of the state, will be on November 20. Votes will be counted on December 11.
Get the latest election news, live updates and election schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on ndtv.com/elections. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates from each of the 543 parliamentary seats for the 2019 Indian general elections. Election results will be out on May 23.