If the BJP, out of power at the Centre for nine years, has much at stake in these polls, so has its PM candidate Narendra Modi, who addressed a number of election rallies in all four States.

The results of the Assembly elections to four key heartland States — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi — to be announced on Sunday will set the stage for the 2014 general election.

BJP leaders, cheered by exit polls predicting the party winning three of the four States and emerging as the single largest party in Delhi, are nevertheless keeping their fingers crossed. A senior leader said on Friday: “I would like to wait till Sunday to accept congratulations.” BJP president Rajnath Singh held a “strategy session” at the party headquarters with senior functionaries.

If the BJP, out of power at the Centre for nine years, has much at stake in these polls, so has Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, now the prime ministerial candidate, who addressed a number of election rallies in all four States. The BJP’s much-publicised “Modi Magic” will face the first litmus test in the verdict in the four States, the polls being dubbed “semi-finals” to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Not surprisingly, a day ahead of the results, the mood in the Congress was downbeat, with its leaders hoping the party would fare better than what the exit polls had suggested.

Congress leaders said if the party failed to win at least one of these four States (counting for Mizoram will take place on Monday), it would not just set the tone for next year’s Lok Sabha elections, it would also make it very difficult for it to persuade the Opposition to cooperate with it in the ongoing Parliament session, in which it has a heavy legislative agenda.

The government is keen on pushing through not just a slew of anti-corruption laws, including the Lokpal Bill and the Whistle-blowers’ Bill but also the key Bill on Telangana. Indeed, if Telangana is created before next year’s elections, the Congress believes, it will give the party an electoral boost in the region. On the other hand, if the new State does not become a ground reality, the party will face the prospect of getting wiped out in both Telangana, and Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

Publicly, the Congress maintains that the Assembly elections are fought on local issues and the results will have no impact on the general election. “The BJP should be cautious in celebrations, even if opinion and exit polls are true. We won all these 4 States in 1998, 1999. The Lok Sabha results were an eye opener for us,” Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said on Twitter.

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