Patna, Nov 8: The BJP-led combine and the Grand Alliance were in a close contest on Sunday in Bihar in the battle for the 243-member assembly election, officials counting the millions of votes said.
The four-party alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took early leads in 88 constituencies as counting of votes began in the morning while Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and its allies bounced back and were forging ahead in 70 constituencies.
Smaller parties, including Hyderabad MP Osaduddin Owaisi's MIM, were on the path to victory in four places.
In two hours of vote count, trends were available in 163 seats, TimesNow reported.
But other television channels reported that the Grand Alliance -- which also includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress -- was marginally ahead of the BJP alliance.
CNN-IBN said the Grand Alliance had crossed the half-way mark.
The BJP, however, claimed victory in Bihar. Its activists celebrated both in New Delhi and Patna.
The bitterly contested five-phase electoral battle began on October 12 and ended on November 5.
"I congratulate the people of Bihar for voting for development. The credit goes to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's and (BJP president) Amit Shah's leadership," BJP spokesman Kailash Vijayvargiya told the media.
In New Delhi, BJP leaders ordered a huge quantity of sweets, saying they were sure of a victory.
BJP candidates were leading in 70 seats, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) in nine, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ramvilas Paswan in seven and the Rashtriya Lok Sama Party (RLSP) in two seats each.
In the Grand Alliance, the JD-U was ahead in 33 seats, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad in 32 and the Congress in eight seats.
The RJD and the JD-U fielded 101 candidates each and the Congress 41.
The BJP contested 160 seats and its allies the LJP 40, the RLSP 23 and the HAM 20 seats.