With every single seat in Lok Sabha gaining untold significance, the slog overs in Punjab have become that much more crucial for both the principal rivals — UPA and NDA — for power at the Centre.
And that's why the best of the best campaigners — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and youth icon Rahul Gandhi of the Congress and NDA's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani and a host of alliance partners chose to display their firepower in the state ahead of the polling for nine seats.
Among those whose fate would be decided, include filmstar and former minister Vinod Khanna (62) in Gurdaspur, cricketer-turned politician Navjot Sidhu (45) in Amritsar AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari (42) in Ludhiana and former Punjab Congress chief M.S. Kaypee (53) in Jalandhar.
Also in the fray are Rahul Gandhi's young picks - Ravneet Singh Bittu (33) and Sukhwinder Danny (32) who are trying their luck from Anandpur Sahib and Faridkot respectively.
On Sunday, the entire NDA grouping proclaimed itself a winner at a joint rally in Ludhiana and boasted that it would ultimately form the government at the Centre. But the reality is otherwise. The NDA doesn't seem to be doing well in Punjab. It's the Congress which is likely to vastly improve its tally.
The Congress which won only two out of the 13 seats in 2004 polls is far comfortable. The party had already entered the poll arena with a discernible edge over the ruling combine and is expected to vastly improve its performance.
As for the Akali Dal, it is caught in an across the board anti-incumbency rage against the SAD-BJP state government, which has done little to write home about in its two years at the helm, say observers.