Counting will begin at 33 places in Gujarat on Thursday where 44,579 electronic voting machines (EVMs), which were used for the polling, have been kept in strong rooms under heavy security. Gujarat saw a 71.32 per cent voting turnout this time, much more than the 59 per cent turnout witnessed in 2007. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who had won the 2002 and 2007 elections, is seeking a third term and a hat-trick will certainly consolidate his position in the party and declare his arrival on the national stage.
The assembly elections in Gujarat this year was a three-way contest after former chief minister and rebel BJP leader Keshubhai Patel quit the party to float his own Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) in August. It is expected that the GPP will pose a challenge to the BJP in the Saurashtra region.
The Congress, which has failed to win power in Gujarat since 1990, carried out a sustained and aggressive campaign against Narendra Modi. The latter also targetted the Congress and carried out hi-tech campaign to reach out to his supporters. Modi himself contested from Maninagar in Ahmedabad from where he had won both in 2002 and 2007.
Apart from these main players, 33 other parties have also participated in this year's election in Gujarat. Nitish Kumar's JD(U), an ally of the BJP-led NDA, had decided to contest alone in the polls. The BJP had fielded candidates from all 182 seats while the Congress and NCP alliance contested from a few seats less.
The elections saw a total of 1,666 candidates contesting and besides Modi, fates of heavyweights like Congress state party president Arjun Modhwadia, Leader of the Opposition Saktisinh Gohil and former CM Shankarsinh Vaghela will also be decided. Gujarat Election Commission sources said postal ballots would be taken up in the initial hours followed by 2,71,58,626 votes cast in the two phases. The trends would be available within 3-4 hours for all constituencies and all results would be declared by 4 pm, election panel sources said.
In Himachal, counting for 68 seats will begin at 8 am at 68 counting halls and all results are expected to be declared by evening. The state saw a record turnout of 74.7 per cent voting. Exit polls have projected Congress of having an edge in the state. State Election Commission sources said the long gap between polling and counting in Himachal had cost an additional Rs 4 crore on security of the EVMs. The total expenditure of the poll was likely to be around Rs 10 crore, they said.
Four fifty-nine candidates contested the polls in Himachal and they include CM PK Dhumal, state Congress chief Vir Bhadra Singh, state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Vidya Stokes and many others. As many as 33,49.948 voters had cast their ballots in the Nov 4 polling. In Himachal also, counting of the postal ballots will be taken up first, followed by the EVM votes. The BJP and Congress have contested from all seats in the state.
Election commission authorities said that EVMs from the tribal area of Lahaul Spiti, which were cut off due to heavy snow, were shifted to Kullu district in advance but 11 postal ballots could not be brought as Rohtang Pass, which links Kullu with Lahaul and Spiti district, was closed. Those votes would be counted in Udaipur under the monitoring of a special committee and micro observers like that in 2007, it was said. The Election Commission of India had been informed about it, the state poll panel authorities said.