Polls predict Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) alliance will just win a parliamentary majority, a sharp drop from his commanding mandate five years ago, when he vowed to turn India into an economic and military power.
But his government's inability to create a million jobs every month, and ease farmers' distress over low product prices, has taken the shine off what is still the world's fastest growing major economy.
From sugar farmers in northern Uttar Pradesh going unpaid for produce, to small businesses in the south shut because they are unable to meet the requirements of a new, unifying national tax, discontent has brewed for months.
"The election has become a lot closer than we think, sitting in Delhi," said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a Modi biography and books on Hindu nationalist groups. "There is anger and disillusionment in the countryside."
In December, alarm bells rang for Modi's Hindu nationalists after it lost three key states to the main opposition Congress and its allies, led by Rahul Gandhi.
But a surge in tension with traditional foe Pakistan in February has pushed Modi ahead, as he projects himself as a defender of national security and paints his rivals as weak-kneed, sometimes even questioning their patriotism.