India will be keenly watching the second round of elections in UP on Thursday as the high profile Lok Sabha constituency of Amethi, from where Rahul Gandhi is contesting, goes to the polls along with 16 other constituencies.
The overall prospects of the Congress depend solely on a wave from Amethi spreading to other constituencies in what is being seen as an insipid and issue-less election.
It's a strange mix of 17 constituencies spread over central and eastern parts of the state along with the water-starved Bundelkhand region. The other key players in this phase are Sanjay Singh (Congress) from Sultanpur, Rajkumari Ratna Singh (Congress) from Pratapgarh, Reoti Raman Singh (SP) from Allahabad, Vinay Katiyar (BJP) from Ambedkar-nagar, Beni Prasad Verma (Congress) from Gonda, Jag-dambika Pal (Congress) from Domariaganj and Dhananjay Singh (BSP) from Jaunpur.
This is perhaps the first time in recent years that the Ram temple issue and dacoits are missing during polls in UP.
No party or candidate, including the torch-bearers of the Ram temple movement, BJP leaders Vinay Katiyar in Ambedkarnagar and Laloo Singh in Faizabad, are igniting the temple issue. They did organise public meetings addressed by Narendra Modi but he chose to champion development instead.
Banda in Bundelkhand is breathing free after the gunning down of notorious dacoits Dadua and Thokia.
Thus the vote here will be for royalty (with some former rajas contesting), loyalty and to some extent against poverty - with caste and criminals playing their perennial parts.