Polling in one of India's most bitterly-fought general elections will conclude on Wednesday although it is not yet clear who will capture power.
Campaigning for the polls was acerbic with attacks on persons and characters by star campaigners of key groupings-- UPA, NDA and the Third Front.
Staggered polling, which began on April 16, has seen elections completed to 457 Lok Sabha seats and also stray violence in some parts of the country.
The final phase would see election of 86 MPs and among the contenders are Congress' P Chidambaram and Md Azharuddin, BJP's Maneka and Varun Gandhi and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, DMK's T R Baalu, A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and M K Azhagiri, MDMK's Vaiko, TC chief Mamata Banerjee and SP's Jayaprada.
The general elections will decide if the ruling UPA coalition will hold on to power or the multi-party NDA will return after a five-year hiatus or if a third combination would spring a surprise. The counting of votes on May 16 will decide which one would have the final word.
A party or a coalition needs 272 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha to stake claim to form a government. Elections are held only to 543 seats as two members are nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.
Congress' Mani Shankar Aiyar and Sajjad Gani Lone of People's Conference also feature in the list of prominent names in this leg, in which 10.78 crore voters can choose from 1,432 candidates.
Elections would be held to all 39 seats in the key state of Tamil Nadu and four seats in Himachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir, nine in Punjab, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in West Bengal, five in Uttarakhand and the lone one seat each in both Chandigarh and Puducherry.
The Left Parties, whom Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had sent feelers to for a post-poll tie-up, too indicate that they were keeping options open.
"Let the elections be over. Let the results come...After May 16, we will see," said CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, whose party had withdrawn support to the Congress-led UPA over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
Elsewhere, Jayalalithaa denied that the AIADMK was in secret talks with others for an alliance. Rahul Gandhi's reference to Jayalalithaa in the context of alliance at a press conference in Delhi last week had apparently upset the DMK, the Congress' ally in Tamil Nadu.
The Gandhi scion had later reassured the ally that it was very much Congress' partner for elections in the state and that the two would work together in other states as well.