The contest for the Doda-Kathua-Udhampur parliamentary seat is likely to be a litmus test for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the electorates in the constituency are split vertically after the Kishtwar communal violence incident.
Besides, rebels and smaller parties like the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) and the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Front (JKDF) could also play spoilsport for political bigwigs.
The constituency has nearly 14 lakh registered voters, including nearly 6.5 lakh women, speared over six districts of Jammu province - including Doda, Kathua, Udhampur, Ramban, Kishtwar and Reasi - with 17 assembly segments.
Of the total electorates in the constituency, nearly 70% are Hindu and 30% Muslim.
With an objective to win the seat, both the Congress and the BJP have dropped their previous candidates: the Congress has replaced two-time sitting MP Lal Singh with union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is a popular figure and has served as chief minister for 31 months from November 2005 to July 2008.
The BJP has also given the ticket to RSS-backed Jatinder Singh instead of Nirmal Singh, who lost the 2009 elections to Congress candidate Lal Singh by a whisker.
The past results/trends, however, are in favour of the Congress, which has won the seat for nine times as compared to the BJP that has won it for three times.
Analysts feel the main competition is between BJP's Jatinder Singh and Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad.
However, people alleged that Azad, during his 31-month tenure as chief minister, remained Bhaderwah-centric, while other two districts -Ramban and Kishtwar - remained neglected. Even though Congress leadership claims that as CM Azad had sanctioned eight new districts to the state; however, as far as sanctioning of annual funds for Doda and Kishtwar is concerned, people allege both the districts "received peanuts".
A large number of people in Udhampur district are annoyed by Azad, alleging that while sanctioning five medical colleges in five districts the state, he ignored Udhampur.
Incumbent MP from Udhampur Chowdhary Lal Singh also rebelled with the party, preferring Azad over him.
The election is also an acid test for BJP'S Jatinder Singh, who is riding on "Modi wave". The only hindrance is BJP failing to ensure re-entry of two-time MP Chaman Lal Gupta, who served Udhampur twice in Parliament and was MoS (defence) in the Vajpayee-led-NDA government.
As the parliamentary constituency has nearly 70% Hindu voters, the BJP is trying to polarise them.
Beside other factors, smaller parties like JKNPP, JKDF and the main opposition PDP could also play spoilsport for the national parties.
Poll analysts are of opinion that both Anil Gupta (JKDF) and Bhim Singh (JKNPP) will definitely cut into BJP vote bank. On the other hand, PDP candidate Arshad Malik too can play spoilsport for Azad and can break into his Muslim vote bank.