NEW DELHI: Both the Congress and BJP are equally confident of sweeping the upcoming elections in five states, but some say a Congress rout could lead to an early Lok Sabha poll.
Balloting to pick new assemblies in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur in January-March will be crucial to all political actors, but more so to the Congress party.
Despite battling a string of corruption allegations that have sullied its image, the Congress is hopeful of a victory.
Congress spokesman Raashid Alvi said the Congress was confident of retaining power in Goa and Manipur and forming governments in the other states.
He did not rule out the possibility of the polls having a bearing on the future direction of national politics.
"The outcome will not have an impact on the central government. But state elections do indicate the direction of politics," Alvi told IANS.
"This much is certain that the Congress will emerge as a big force in the elections."
Bharatiya Janata Party's Siddharth Nath Singh was equally sure that the Congress would go down.
"The slowdown in economy, crashing rupee and government's problems with its allies... I feel circumstances are leading to mid-term elections," he said. "It will not be surprising if these are held in 2012."
There are takers to this idea.
Rising prices of essential items through this year and the war over a proposed Lokpal -- within the political establishment and with Anna Hazare and his supporters -- are bound to impact voter preferences.
Siddharth Nath Singh said the BJP would do well in the elections. The BJP is part of the Akali Dal-alliance in Punjab and it governs Uttarakhand on its own.
Political analyst Rizwan Qaiser was sure that the coming electoral battle would be a rehearsal for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The first of the state elections will be held in Manipur Jan 28, and the process will end with Goa's balloting March 3.
All states will see one-day polling barring Uttar Pradesh, where voting will be staggered over seven phases.
The results will be out March 4.
The most significant showdown will take place in Uttar Pradesh, where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is intent on giving a new life to his party vis-a-vis the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party.
The Congress finished fourth in the last assembly election.
The elections involve 137 million voters, and it will provide an opportunity to the Congress to regain political momentum and gather more leeway with assertive allies such as Trinamool Congress.
Alvi refrained from commenting on the possibility of the Congress expanding the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition its heads after the polls to cut its dependability on Trinamool Congress.
"Our issues with allies are an internal matter. I would not like to comment," he said.
The five state elections will be equally important for Hazare, who has vowed to campaign against the Congress everywhere over its failure to unveil, in his words, a "strong Lokpal" to combat corruption.
Later this year, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will elect new assemblies.