Polling for the 230-member Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly began at 8 a.m. on Monday, an official said.
Over 4.6 crore (46 million) voters are eligible to exercise their right to franchise. The results will be out December 8.
In three constituencies in Maoist-affected Balaghat district, voting began an hour earlier and would conclude at 3 p.m.
For the first time, the none of the above (NOTA) option will be available to voters.
In the 2008 polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP
) won 143 seats while the Congress
The BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan
hopes to win for a third term, which will put him on a par with the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who is currently the only three-term chief minister the party has.
Anti-incumbency in the state against corruption by sitting MLAs and ministers are jostling with the undeniable personal popularity of the chief minister. On the other hand, the opposition Congress has reconciled itself to the fact that groupism will always be a fact of life in the party and despite superficial bonhomie, is fighting back strongly against the government.
BJP had come to power in the state in 2003, winning 173 seats, while the Congress could manage only 38. The saffron party secured a second straight term in 2008 pocketing 143 seats, while Congress got 71, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) got seven, Bharatiya Jan Shakti Party five, Samajwadi Party (SP) one and three independent candidates.
According to the last ABP survey, the ruling-BJP would get 37% votes in MP, while the opposition, Congress around 34%. Experts believe that the margin of victory may be narrow and the fight may even yield surprises.
Out of the 1,045 candidates, whose affidavits about their criminal record were analysed by Madhya Pradesh Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms, 243 have criminal cases pending against them. The crimes for which charges have been brought against candidates in the state include murder, kidnap and crimes against women, according to ADR.
Among the Congress candidates in the state, 97 have criminal cases against them; 66 BJP candidates are in that category, as are 58 BSP candidates.
Voting is underway in 53,896 polling booths in 51 districts with the electorate of 464,57,724. A total of 2,583 candidates are in fray, including Chouhan, who is contesting from Budhni and Vidisha seats.
The other prominent candidates from BJP are state Urban Development Minister and former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur (Govindpura in Bhopal), Forest Minister Sartaj Singh (Seoni-Malwa in Hoshangabad district) and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narottam Mishra (Datia proper in Datia district).State Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta is fighting from Bhopal South-West while Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Gopal Bhargava from Rehli and BJP MP Yashodhara Raje Scindia from Shivpuri.