Madhya Pradesh saw brisk voting Monday with the Congress claiming it was poised to oust the BJP, which has ruled the sprawling state for 10 long years, officials said.
Polling opened at 8 a.m. across the state for a new 230-seat assembly barring three constituencies in Balaghat district, a Maoist hub where voting began an hour earlier.
By noon, 26 percent of the 4.66 crore electorate had voted, the Election Commission said.
With 2,586 candidates in the fray, the main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
Braving a chilly morning, voters queued up at polling centres even before they opened. As the sun rose, the queues lengthened.
For the first time, the "none of the above" (NOTA) option has been made available to voters on the electronic voting machines.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, contesting from his traditional Budhni constituency as well as from Vidisha, is confident of winning another five-year term.
He told the media before voting in his village in Sehore district that his dream was to make Madhya Pradesh a developed state.
Among the other prominent BJP candidates are former chief minister Babulal Gaur (Govindpura constituency in Bhopal), minister Kailash Vijayvargiya (Mhow in Indore) and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's nephew Anoop Mishra (Bhitarvar in Gwalior).
BJP's Yashodara Raje Scindia is contesting against her nephew and union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, projected as the Congress' unofficial chief ministerial candidate, from Shivpuri in Gwalior.
Other prominent Congress candidates include former union minister Suresh Pachauri (Bhojpur), leader of the opposition in the assembly Ajay Singh (Churhat), Digvijaya Singh's son Jaivardhan Singh (Raghogarh), and Sachin Yadav, son of former deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav (Kasravad).
Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath asserted that the Congress would win at least 140 seats "as people want to be free of the corrupt BJP regime".
He was speaking to reporters after voting in Chhindwara constituency.
The BJP ousted the Congress in 2003. In 2008, it retained power winning 143 seats. The Congress won 71.
The Madhya Pradesh verdict will be out Dec 8 along with the results of the Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh elections.