The stakes are high for the Congress, too, as it had sitting MLAs in 27 of the 28 seats going to the polls.
The by-elections in Madhya Pradesh were necessitated after former Congress leader jyotiradithya Scindia with his supporters switched over to the BJP. Twenty-five resigned early this year and joined the BJP after a rebellion by Jyotiraditya Scindia, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government.
They are now contesting as BJP candidates. In the three other seats, the by-election was necessitated following the deaths of the sitting legislators. Twelve state ministers are among the 355 candidates contesting in the central India state, where bypolls are being held for so many seats in one go for the first time.
In most seats, there is a direct fight between the BJP and Congress.
Congress has to win 28 Assembly seats in the 230-member House in one go to wrest the power it lost with Scindia leaving for BJP. BJP, on the other hand, needs to win only nine seats to retain power which obviously will be a cake walk with 16 of the 28 seats falling under the Gwalior-Chambal region where the Scindia family has a strong hold.
The loss of seats there would be a proof that the prince's influence is not as effective as it once was. Accommodating all of Scindia's loyalists has marked a churning within the BJP leadership as some fear getting relegated to the background.
The Congress which was able to form its government in the state for the first time in 70 years tumbled to the ground with Scindia's exit. The party needs this prestige battle to regain pride by replying Scindia thoroughly through ballot to have back its influence in the region. Thus, the polls are more of a survival struggle for Mr. Sindhya and Congress this time.