As counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections has begun, the fate of 8,049 candidates hangs in thin air.
The counting of votes began at 8 am across 542 Lok Sabha constituencies at various counting booths. Election in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, was cancelled. By evening, India will likely know who will get to hold the reins of power in the world’s largest democracy for the next five years.
The counting process and announcement of results, however, are expected to be delayed by several hours this time as the outcomes of five polling booths per assembly segment will be tallied with voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips, an Election Commission release said on Wednesday, quoting Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) L Khiangte.
The security of electronic voting machines has also emerged as a crucial issue with opposition parties raising doubts over their credibility.
Opposition parties on Wednesday slammed the Election Commission for rejecting their demand to tweak the counting of VVPAT slips with the Congress calling it ‘Enfeebled Commission’, while BJP chief Amit Shah termed their plea as unconstitutional.
The Opposition had approached the EC on Tuesday to demand that five random VVPATs in each Assembly segment should be counted first so that if there is a problem or a mismatch, the entire slips can be counted from the beginning itself.
Though the EC made it clear to the 22 Opposition parties on Tuesday that the old protocol for counting the paper slips will continue, its top officials met on Wednesday and decided against making any last-minute changes to the way they are to be tallied.
The parties have alleged that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in the Lok Sabha polls were being switched with fresh ones ahead of the counting.
The Election Commission (EC), however, has asserted that the EVMs used in the polls are “absolutely safe” in strongrooms, dismissing the allegations.
Lok Sabha election 2019 kicked-off on April 11, the day of voting in Phase 1. The voting process ended on May 19, four days before the result day. The result of election 2019 will decide if BJP-led NDA or Congress-led UPA will form the government at the Centre.
The exit polls have predicted an outright majority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance in the seven-phase election. The India Today-Axis My India had predicted a thumping victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The NDA, according to the prediction, is expected to cross the majority mark comfortably and win 339-365 Lok Sabha seats.
Six of seven exit polls have predicted the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will comfortably exceed the majority mark of 272 seats in parliament’s lower house.
The NDA has promised to rev up growth, double farmers’ income and boost infrastructure spending in the next five years, after exit polls showed it would retain power when general election votes are counted on Thursday.
The Congress and other Opposition parties dismissed the exit poll results as fake.
Confident of victory, the NDA, which is led by PM Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), met in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“The NDA has resolved to speed up economic growth and fulfil the needs of the people in the next five years of our government,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a senior member of the BJP, told reporters. “We’re committed to a strong, developed and inclusive India.”
The Congress, on the other hand, urged its workers to remain vigilant at centres where votes are being stored before Thursday’s count.
“The next 24 hours are important, stay alert and vigilant,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi, said on Twitter on Wednesday, addressing party workers.
“Don’t be scared. You are fighting for the truth. Don’t be disheartened by the false propaganda of fake exit polls. Believe in yourself and the Congress party, your hard work will not go in vain.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs warned states and union territories of violence on May 23 and asked top police and civil officials of states to take preventive measures.
“This is in the wake of calls given and statements made in various quarters for inciting violence and causing disruption on the day of counting of votes,” the ministry said in a statement.