The counting of votes for Chhattisgarh's assembly elections will begin tomorrow amid indications that the race between two main contenders for power -- BJP and Congress -- is poised for a close finish.
Ruling BJP faces a litmus test of its ability to shake off the burden of anti-incumbency while Congress gets an opportunity to see if it can bounce back to power in the 90-member House.
During the campaigns, the two parties were selling a mixed bag of national and local issues to the voters and indulging in a competitive bout of populism promising to reduce prices of rice to Rs 2 or Re 1 per kg and free power to farmers.
Caste equations, presence of rebel candidates are cause of concerns for both the Congress and the BJP which will also keenly watch the performance of Bahujan Samaj Party whose social engineering experiment could poach into traditional vote banks of the two main parties.
The BSP, which opened its accounts in the 2003 polls with two seats -- Sarangarh and Malkharoda -- and shared around seven per cent vote, could tilt the balance in the event of a tight finish. BSP has fielded its candidates in all the 90 seats and is expected to increase its tally this time.
Among the political heavyweights whose fate will be decided tomorrow are CM Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon, former CM Ajit Jogi from Marwahi, his wife Renu Jogi from Kota, opposition leader Mahendra Karma from Dantewada, Speaker Premprakash Pandey from Bhilai, Congress state president Dhanendra Sahu from Abhanpur and his BJP counterpart Vishnudeo Sai from Pathalgaon.
The key to the results lies in the battle for supremacy between BJP and Congress in the tribal heartland which accounts for 29 seats spread across highly Naxal-infested areas.