Hectic political parleys marked the eve of counting of votes for five state assemblies, billed as semi-finals before the 2019 national polls. While the BJP leaders said the final results should be awaited even as they sought to de-link the state polls from the next year's Lok Sabha elections, Congress has asserted that the mandate from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram would send a "clear message" against the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Counting of votes for the five state assemblies would begin at 8 am on Tuesday and a clear trend is likely to emerge by afternoon. Exit polls have mostly forecast a tight-race between the ruling BJP and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Chhattisgarh, while many of them have given a clear majority to the Congress against the ruling BJP in Rajasthan.
Over 8,500 candidates were in fray in polls for these assemblies and their electoral fate is currently sealed in over 1.74 lakh EVMs, stored in over 670 strongrooms across the five states. A total of 678 assembly seats across five states went for polls, after polling was countermanded in one seat in Rajasthan due to death of a candidate.
Tight security arrangements have been made for the counting.
The five states whose political fate will be decided are:
Telangana: The stage is set for counting of votes in Telangana Assembly elections on Tuesday which will decide the fate of 1,821 candidates. Polling for 119-seat Telangana was held on December 7. The counting will begin at 8 am on December 11, Tuesday.
Most of the exit polls for Telangana, where voter turnout was recorded at 73.20%, have suggested that incumbent Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao will retain power.
Madhya Pradesh: After days of hectic campaigning involving acerbic allegations and counter allegations, Madhya Pradesh Assembly election results will finally be out on Tuesday to reveal whether the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is able to retain the state or can the Congress unseat the ruling party. Counting for the 230-member Assembly will begin at 8 am on Tuesday.
Incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has exuded confidence of winning the state for the BJP again.
Rajasthan: In what is being seen as a big test for all political parties ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the counting of votes for the assembly elections held in Rajasthan on December 7 will take place on December 11, Tuesday.
The outcome of the assembly elections will prove if the ruling BJP, which hopes to buck the two-decade trend of the incumbent losing power, will retain power in Rajasthan. Meanwhile, Congress – the main opposition party – is equally hopeful of making a comeback in the state.
Chhattisgarh: Voting in Chhattisgarh was conducted in two phases on November 12 and November 20 while the counting of votes will be held on December 11, Tuesday. The term of the 90-seat Chhattisgarh Assembly will end on January 5, 2019.
Tight security arrangements have been made in the state where at least 12 assembly seats are in Naxal-affected areas. Besides, there have been allegations related to the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Mizoram: In a state that has seen topsy-turvy political battles, the fight for power for long has been between the Congress and Mizo National Front. On counting day this Tuesday, the contest is once again expected to be between the two parties as Congress would be hoping to retain power while MNF would look at avenging its loss in the 2008 and 2013 elections.
The incumbent CM – Lal Thanhwala – has put up a confident face and claimed that the people of Mizoram would reward him and the Congress party for the work done in his last two terms.
The assembly elections are being seen as crucial for the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections as it is in power in three of these states - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress is in power in Mizoram, while the TRS ruled Telangana before the assembly was dissolved there.
The BJP is trying for a fourth term in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and is seeking to retain power in Rajasthan. The three states also played a significant role for the BJP in the 2014 general elections, when it had won 62 out of the 65 Lok Sabha seats in these three states.
The elections are also significant for Congress, which is out to challenge the BJP's rule in three states and protect its last bastion in the North-East, where Mizoram remains the only state not (rpt) not under the rule of BJP-led NDA.
In the multi-phase polling, Chhattisgarh voted on November 12 (18 seats) and November 20 (72 seats); Madhya Pradesh (230 seats) and Mizoram (40 seats) on November 28; and Rajasthan (199 seats) and Telangana (119 seats) on December 7.