With polling just round the corner and the contestants pushing into the final phase of campaigning, the thoughts of most, if not all in this wet, wet, wet town, is who will end up high and dry with nothing and who emerges as victor.

While the answer to that all important question will only be known late Tuesday night, some political observers and campaigners closely monitoring the voters' mood have obtained some early indications.

While nobody can be sure exactly how the voters will decide, the early signs show that BN is having the upper hand despite many non-Malay voters, especially the Chinese, placing their faith on PAS.

Even the PAS leadership itself admits that it is trailing behind BN in terms of Malay support but is ahead on non-Malay voters.

Sources within PAS and PKR - two members of the opposition tasked with campaigning for non-Malay votes, said they are not entirely confident that victory is at hand because of new issues like the country's new leadership in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and return of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed to Umno, as they may have some impact on this rural constituency, especially among Malay voters.

In the 2008 general election, the late Roslan Shaharom from PAS scored an upset over Umno's Datuk Abdul Azim Zabidi with a majority of 1,566 votes. But analysts from both BN and PAS said that Roslan garnered only 47 percent of the Malay votes and he rode to victory by bagging an estimated 65 percent of the non-Malay votes.

The detailed analysis of the 2008 general election results showed that the Malay voter turnout was high at 77 percent and 51 percent voted for BN while the rest voted for PAS.

However, its was the non-Malay votes that turned the tide against BN as out of the 14,975 Chinese voters, 58 percent turned up to vote. Out of these, only 38 percent voted for BN and 54 percent, surprisingly voted for PAS.

In terms of the 5,367 Indian voters, 64 percent showed up of which 48 percent voted for BN. The remaining 49 percent voted for PAS, meaning that the Indian votes were equally split.

BN's candidate, Ismail Safian, is confident of winning as he contends that PAS has never actually won the bulk of Malay support in Bukit Gantang since the constituency was created in 1986.

"The only thing here is that PAS has the hardcore support of about 40 percent (of the Malays). Moreover, you have to bear in mind, when we lost in 2008, there were nearly 3,000 Umno members who did not come out to vote (because of some internal issues) but this time, we believe that the number of our members who will not turn up to vote can be reduced," said Ismail, who was formerly BN's director of operations in the last two general elections.

In addition, BN also has a track record of enjoying strong support throughout the past six general elections except for last year when it only obtained 45.91 per cent of the support compared to 60.37 per cent (2004), 55.59 per cent (1999), 68.97 per cent (1995), 60.35 per cent (1990) and 60.87 per cent (1986).

"So this time, we believe we can pull through," said Ismail.

In fact, some analysis by several political operatives showed that support for PAS in Malay communities in the constituency had actually dropped by about 2.0 per cent in 2004 and this trend continued in last year's general election with a further drop of 2.0 percent.

However, the drop in Malay support for PAS was compensated by the increasing non-Malay support towards PAS, which saw an improvement of more than 30 percent in 2008..

"In this by-election, despite it being tough, we believe that with the new leadership factor and the release of two Hindraf members, Indian support for BN can be increased to 65 per cent," former MIC Deputy President Datuk S. Subramanian said.

At least on paper and based on early conservative calculations, it seems that BN is leading the field for Malay votes and this has left PAS to work out a strategy of maintaining a higher percentage of non-Malay votes.

That is why some political analysts believed that the PAS decision to nominate former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin as a candidate in this by-election is to take advantage of his popularity among the non-Malays to secure the major bulk of the 14,955 Chinese and 5,526 Indian votes.

"The Opposition coalition (comprising PAS, DAP and PKR) is targeting at least 70 percent of the non-Malay votes as in the last election when it secured about 68 percent of the non-Malay votes while at the same time maintaining the 47 percent Malay support," said a DAP source.

But in this by-election, the DAP operative said that it would be tough to see a repeat as polling day on Tuesday was also a working day and expectations of a non-Malay voter turnout of 70 percent may not be reached.

In fact, he is worried that the turnout among non-Malay voters could dip to below 55 percent as some voters lived in places where they worked such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Singapore and Penang.

These outstation voters, mostly younger voters, are said to be more inclined towards the Opposition. In last year's general election, the overall turnout rate was 72 per cent and this time round, the Election Commission estimates that the turnout could be as high as 75 percent.

Therefore, if outstation voters do not come back to vote, then the turnout could be less than 72 percent. This may not work in favour of the Opposition as BN is likely to push for the Malay voter turnout to exceed 70 percent. This is due to the fact that the turnout among Malay voters is usually higher than non-Malays in Bukit Gantang as proven in the last election where the Malay voter turnout was 75.4 percent against 62.2 per cent for non-Malays.

Since the creation of the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in 1986, the turnout for the past six general election showed that it has always between 67 ando 73 percent with an average of 70 percent.

In theory, the minimum requirement for BN to win back the seat will be by maintaining 40 percent of the non-Malay support and improve Malay support to 55 percent.

However, with the anticipation of further drop of 10 percent in non-Malay support, political analysts predict that BN would need at least 62 percent of the Malay votes to scrape through.

If non-Malay support further drops to 20 percent, then BN will need to have at least 70 percent of the Malay votes.

With new impetus in BN such as the new leadership at the federal level, the review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and release of some ISA detainees as well as the One Malaysian vision espoused by Najib, the renewed fresh sense of hope will work in BN's favour.