The upcoming municipal elections in Uttar Pradesh is being seen as a test for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as it would indicate whether residents of the state are satisfied with the BJP government led by Mr Adityanath.
Earlier this year the BJP had secured a three-fourth majority in the state assembly paving the way for 45-year-old Yogi Adityanath to become chief minister.
The municipal elections, to be held in November-December, is being seen as a major test for Mr Adityanath as the outcome would reveal the mood of the voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, political observers say.
The notification for the civic polls is likely to be issued by the end of this month.
"Voting for local bodies is based on local issues. In the civic polls people cast ballots. The masses will get a chance to register their disapproval of the 'anti-people' BJP government," Samajwadi Party MLC Rajpal Kashyap said, adding that the urban local polls would be the first direct elections with Yogi Adityanath at the helm.
The BJP's victory in these polls would be seen as a stamp of approval for the Adityanath government in the state. "The results will also present an opportunity to the party for course correction in their policies and governance," political observer and academic Manjula Upadhyay said.
The urban civic elections were earlier scheduled for June-July, but had to be postponed due to a delay in electoral rolls and some other processes which could not be completed within the stipulated time.
Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party is also gearing up to contest the municipal elections in Uttar Pradesh. "We will contest from wherever we feel we have a strong organisational base," AAP leader Sanjay Singh said.
The Aam Aadmi Party had not contested the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and instead diverted all its resources to focus on Punjab, where it ultimately lost.
The Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which forged an alliance ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, have decided to contest the upcoming municipal polls separately. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has said his party will have no alliance in the elections to urban local bodies and would contest them on its 'bicycle' symbol.
Terming the alliance with Congress as a one-off case, Samajwadi Party spokesperson and MLC Sunil Singh Sajan said, "The pre-poll electoral tie-up was for 2017 Assembly elections. This does not mean that it will continue for the urban local bodies' elections or 2019 Lok Sabha polls."
The Congress too have decided to contest the municipal elections by themselves. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad recently said his party would go alone in the urban local polls.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has also confirmed that it is contesting the civic polls without an alliance.
In case there is a split in non-BJP votes, the Bharatiya Janata Party will have an edge.
Expecting that a split in opposition votes would help the BJP's prospects, its spokesperson Shalabh Mani Tripathi said he is confident that the BJP would register an impressive win. "The BJP has started Vikas Parv, which will disseminate information pertaining to various developmental schemes and projects of the Centre in the last three-and-a-half years," he said.
"It will also spread information about the developmental works undertaken and achieved in the six-months of the Adityanath government in the state," Mr Tripathi said.
The Aam Aadmi Party has already released its first list of 19 candidates for the Lucknow Municipal Corporation election. According to a release issued by the party, Priyanka Maheshwari is its nominee for the post of Lucknow mayor.
Although, the BJP has traditionally been strong in the urban constituencies, the acid test for Yogi Adityanath would be to match the performance exhibited during the Assembly elections.
Around 30 million voters would be eligible to exercise their franchise in the upcoming municipal polls to be held for over 650 posts, including 438 municipal boards, 202 town areas and 16 corporations, also comprising two newly constituted Ayodhya Nagar Nigam and Mathura-Vrindavan Nagar Nigam.
In 2012, the BJP had swept these polls, winning 10 of the 12 mayoral posts. Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma is now a deputy chief minister of the state.
In the coming months, the spotlight will also be on the Gorakhpur and the Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections. The recent visits to Amethi by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah, as well as the Samajwadi Party national convention in Agra has set the stage for a high-octane contest.
Though no date has been announced by the Election Commission, the two Lok Sabha constituencies are expected to go to polls in the near future as Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated them after becoming MLCs in September.
"The BJP will not only emerge victorious in both the by-polls, it will also improve its victory margin," Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson Manish Shukla said.
The Samajwadi Party has also claimed that despite a big loss in the Assembly polls earlier this year, it is ready to contest the by-elections. Akhilesh Yadav told the party's Agra convention earlier this month that the two key by-elections would give his party a chance to gauge which way the wind was blowing, months after it was routed in the Assembly elections.
Akhilesh Yadav also said that if results of the by-elections were in "our favour, it will give a message not only for the 2019 (Lok Sabha) polls, but also for the 2022 (assembly) elections".
The BSP has not made any comment about the upcoming municipal polls and by-elections in the state.