New Delhi: Counting of votes in the high-stakes Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry will be taken up on Thursday morning.
Election Commission officials said that counting of votes, which will commence at 8 AM, will be over by 3 PM.
While the first trends are expected to be available after an hour, a clear picture could emerge on the winners by 12 noon.
Counting of votes:
According to Election Commission guidelines, half-an-hour after the postal ballots are counted, the process of counting votes from the EVMs begins.
The 'ballot unit' is switched on in the presence of senior poll officials and counting agents of candidates and the result command keyed in to get results per machine.
Where a paper trail audit or 'voter-verified paper audit trail' (VVPAT) has been used, the counting agent can call for a count of the paper slips in the drop box attached to the voting machine, but a final count is taken by the returning officer.
Once the results are declared, the names of the winning candidates will find mention in the gazette. The gazette notification will initiate the process to form the next legislative assemblies in the states.
The counting of votes will decide the fate of approximately 8,300 candidates including chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Assam and CM contender BJP's Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswas, chief minister Jayalalithaa and Karunandhi in Tamil Nadu, chief minister Oommen Chandy, CPI(M) leaders V S Achutanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) Suryakanta Mishra in West Bengal and chief Minister M Rangaswamy in Puducherry.
A look at candidates and parties in respective states:
One of the most keenly observed political battles in the country, the polls in West Bengal have acquired an extra dimension this time, with arch-rivals the Congress and the CPI-M-spearheaded Left Front stitching an alliance to throw a strong challenge to the ruling Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee.
While the Trinamool tom-tommed its infrastructural projects and welfare schemes, the Opposition hit back with missiles like the Narada sting and Saradha scams and the flyover collapse in the city that claimed 26 lives.
Also of keen interest would be the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had polled a surprising 17 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After the debacle in Delhi and Bihar, the BJP is hoping to wrest power from the Congress in Assam. In the last elections in Assam, the Congress - which has been in power in the state for 15 years - won 78 seats, the AIUDF 18 and the BJP five seats in the 126-member House.
In Assam, if voted to power, the BJP will form its first-ever government in the northeast. The Assembly elections were held in two phases and the voter turnout was a record-breaking 84.7 percent in the state.
As for the incumbent CM Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, he has already announced that this Assembly election will be his last participation in electoral democracy.
The Congress led ruling UDF and CPI-M headed LDF Opposition are in a close fight in the state where BJP is trying its luck to open its maiden account in the Assembly.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Opposition leader and 93-year-old CPI-M veteran VS Achuthanandan, CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, 83-year-old Kerala Congress(M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani are among the 1,203 candidates in the electoral arena.
A voter turnout of an estimated 71.7 percent was recorded for Kerala Assembly polls that passed off peacefully amid tight security.
A total of 3,776 candidates are in the fray in 234 constituencies with RK Nagar seat topping the list with 45 nominees including Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in the fray. Out of the total candidates, 3,454 are men, 320 women and two transgenders.
Polling in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur will take place on May 23 and the counting of votes on May 25. Tamil Nadu recorded a voter turnout of 73.76 per cent in the assembly election with Palacode in Dharmapuri District recording the highest of 88.50 per cent but it was less than the 2011 polls.
The UT comprises Puducherry and its enclaves Yanam in Andhra Pradesh and Mahe and Karaikal. There are 9.41 lakh voters of whom 4.94 lakh are women. 344 contestants, including 96 Independents, are in the fray for election on the 30 Assembly seats in the UT.
In Puducherry, the voter turnout recorded at 8 pm was 84.11 per cent, which was 75.12 per cent in the 2011 assembly polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the turnout was recorded at 83.05 per cent, the Commission said.
(With Agency inputs)