When Haryana's 10 Lok Sabha seats go to polls May 7, its results will be a pointer to the bigger battle in February-March next near - the assembly polls.
This election is seen as a testing ground for the ruling Congress, especially Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Having governed the state with a firm hand in the last four years, the election will be an occasion for Hooda to show that his 'development-oriented' government has been able to deliver.
In the outgoing Lok Sabha, the Congress had nine seats while the Sonipat seat was won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). That election result had come almost one year before the Congress government came into power with a thumping three-fourth majority in the 90-member assembly.
Repeating or bettering the nine out of 10 Lok Sabha seats performance of 2004 will not be an easy task for the Congress this time.
The Congress had polled over 42 percent votes in the 2004 general elections while it got 42.46 percent votes in the 2005 assembly polls.
"We will win all the 10 seats this time. Our government has been development and people oriented. The state has not seen so much change in many years," Hooda said.
But the opposition alliance of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) led by former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and the BJP have geared themselves to put up a good fight to the Congress.
The INLD and BJP, which had been in an alliance prior to the 2004 general elections, had split and both suffered the political consequences. For this general election, both have got together to consolidate their votebank.
"We will sweep this election. People are completely fed up with the policies of the Hooda government. This election will be a referendum on the present government," INLD leader Ajay Singh Chautala said.
In certain areas, the new Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) floated by former chief minister Bhajan Lal and his younger son Kuldeep Bishnoi could impact Congress votes even though the outfit is not likely to score any major victories.
Bhajan Lal, 78, is in the fray for the Hisar Lok Sabha seat against the sitting Congress MP Jai Prakash. The contest on this seat will become triangular with the INLD putting up former finance minister Sampat Singh on this seat.
It is perhaps the fear of losing that has forced HJC leader Bishnoi, who represented the Bhiwani Lok Sabha seat earlier, to stay away from the fray this time.
He had won the Bhiwani seat last time on a Congress ticket, defeating stalwart candidates like former deputy prime minister Devi Lal's grandson Ajay Chautala and former chief minister Bansi Lal's son Surender Singh in a three-cornered contest.
One of the bigger battles this time will be on the newly created Bhiwani-Mahendragarh seat where Ajay Chautala (INLD) will face Congress's political greenhorn Shruti Chaudhary, the grand-daughter of former chief minister Bansi Lal and daughter of Haryana minister Kiran Chaudhary.
Two union ministers, Selja (minister of state for poverty alleviation) and Rao Inderjit Singh (minister of state for defence), are in the fray from the Ambala (reserved) and the new Gurgaon seat respectively.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda's son Deepinder Singh Hooda will seek re-election from the Rohtak Lok Sabha seat. Hooda junior is unlikely to face much trouble in romping home on his father's borough.
On the Kurukshetra seat, billionaire industrialist-MP Naveen Jindal could face trouble in getting re-elected as the INLD has fielded its state president Ashok Arora this time.
Indian Youth Congress president Ashok Tanwar, who has been personally chosen by Rahul Gandhi for the Sirsa (reserved) seat over sitting MP Atma Singh Gill, will face INLD's Sita Ram in an area which is home to the Chautala family.
Former minister of state for home I D Swami will try his luck again from the Karnal seat on the BJP ticket against Arvind Sharma of the Congress. Swami had lost in the 2004 election.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has been trying to create a base for itself in Haryana in recent elections. So far it has not managed to make much of a difference.