NEW DELHI: Unlike the rest of Uttar Pradesh, in the 73 seats in western Uttar Pradesh going to polls in the first phase in the State on Saturday, the contest is four-cornered.
That is, in clear terms, four political parties/alliances -- BJP, BSP, the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine and lastly Ajit Singh's RLD -- are fighting it out with each other in this region, with its distinctive characteristics.
The BJP has locked horns with the RLD to retain its dominance over one of the major vote-banks of the region, the Jats. The polarised Jat voters of 2014 had partly helped the BJP win the massive mandate in the Lok Sabha elections, paving the way for Narendra Modi's national ascendancy.
If the BJP manages to hold on to the seats of the Jat belt of western UP, there's a fair chance that it would be within a striking distance of power in Lucknow when votes are counted on March 11.
But, if Ajit Singh's RLD bounces back on its slogan that the BJP has not kept its promise of giving reservation to the Jat community, then it could be a rather uphill task for the BJP.
Ground-level reports suggest that the Centre's demonetisation move, in addition to the unsatisfactory minimum support price for sugarcane, has left the Jat community restive and divided, with the youth still rooting for Modi and the old generation returning to Ajit Singh.
If the Jat community has a choice between the BJP and RLD, the Muslims -- the other big bloc of voters -- too have a choice, between the SP-Congress combine and the BSP.
Law and order, which is an issue in this part of UP that has seen riots, has the minority voter talk about Mayawati's 'stern' administration with a tinge of nostalgia.
Last Assembly elections, SP and BSP were equally placed with 24 seats each. But this time, the Muslim voters in West UP seem set for a decisive vote to either one of them, the SP-Congress or the BSP.
The Congress does have a few pockets of influence in this region and to be fair, there's no strong anti-incumbency against its ally, Akhilesh Yadav.
But Mayawati who has chosen her candidates carefully and has a better law and order record than Akhilesh is very much in the reckoning.
Whether she or Ajit Singh will be a winner or a spoiler, will only be known when the votes are counted.
Then come the Dalit voters, for whom BJP chief Amit Shah and BSP chief Mayawati are battling it out.
If the Dalits come back to Mayawati en masse, and she gets a sizeable chunk of Muslim votes, then there's no stopping her. If Shah manages to restrict Mayawati to her core Jatav votes, then it will be harder for the BSP to balance the act in the other coming phases.
In western UP thus, it's indeed a four-cornered contest with no clear wave in any one's favour. But it's also a straight fight for vote banks.