Nine out of India's 15 prime ministers have been from Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who hails from Gujarat represents the Varanasi constituency which is in Uttar Pradesh. These statistics alone would tell how important UP is and why the elections in this state would be a referendum for any party.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party the results in UP will be very crucial. A big win would not just make Modi even more powerful, but will also be seen as a thumbs up for his decision on demonetisation. The decision on demonetisation could either pay off or fail very badly for the BJP. The BJP would also be desperate to tilt the balance in its favour in the Rajya Sabha where it is short of numbers.
The BJP had witnessed a decline in Uttar Pradesh after 1992. With Kalyan Singh out as the chief minister, the party had an uphill task ahead. However, after Modi the BJP did manage to pull UP back in its favour in 2014 when it bagged 71 of the 80 seats.
Observers point out that there may not be a repeat of 2014 this year, but the BJP will put up a good fight. It would need to get its caste arithmetic right in the absence of a chief ministerial candidate. A lot would be riding on Modi and Amit Shah in UP.
The Congress on the other hand expects to put up a better performance in the state. With its CM candidate, Sheila Dixit saying that Akhilesh Yadav would make a better CM candidate than her, there are clear indications of the Congress cozying up to the Samajwadi Party.
On the SP front there was confusion among the ranks. However, most of the party workers realise today that Akhilesh is emerging as the clear leader and the poll process sets into motion, the SP could get stronger. However, it would not be easy for the SP as it would also battle anti incumbency.
For Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party this election is crucial. A poor showing in the 2012 assembly poll and the 2014 general elections have clearly put her in the back-foot. It is a do or die situation for her and she would play the minority card extensively. Although it is too early to say, there has been no buzz around her campaign. Many of her leaders have deserted her and a loss in this election would only mean that the exodus would be massive.