Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday took early leads as millions of votes polled in staggered assembly elections were counted.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD-U and its ally the BJP were ahead in 21 of 30 constituencies while Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ramvilas Paswan were a distant second.
Among those cruising to victory was RJD's Rabri Devi, wife of Lalu Prasad and a former chief minister. The Congress, which had only nine seats in the outgoing assembly, was ahead in two places.
More than half of Bihar's over 55 million voters voted between Oct 21 and Nov 20 to pick a new 243-member assembly.
Exit polls have predicted a clear win for the JD-U-BJP alliance, which took office in 2005.
Counting of votes for all 243 Assembly constituencies in Bihar began on Wednesday morning amidst tight security.
Counting for the Banka parliamentary constituency, where a by-election was held, began simultaneously at 8 am, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Kumar Anshumali told PTI in Patna.
Counting has been taken up in 42 centres, mostly in the district headquarters towns, where central para-military forces have been deployed, he said.
For each of the 243 constituencies, there are 14 tables each manned by two counting staff and a special counting micro observer.
The EC's official website will update the trends and results. The first result is expected around noon.
In the outgoing House, the ruling parties JD(U) and BJP have 88 and 55 seats respectively. RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP have 54 and 10 respectively. Congress has nine seats.
122 is the magic mark required for any coalition or party to form a government.
The electoral fate of former chief minister and RJD candidate Rabri Devi, who contested from Raghopur and Sonepur, besides 25 ministers belonging to the BJP and JD(U) will be decided. The outgoing cabinet has a total of 34 ministers. One of them has died. The others are MLCs and did not contest.
Outgoing Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is a MLC and has not contested the elections. He has another year to go as MLC.
His deputy Sushil Modi has also not contested the elections. He is a MLC.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan have also not contested. They are Lok Sabha members from the Saran and Hajipur seats respectively.
The Congress is the only party which fielded candidates in all 243 constituencies followed by the BSP which contested 239 seats. The JD(U) contested 141 seats and its ally BJP 102.
RJD contested 168 seats and ally LJP in 75.
The six phase polls ended on Saturday with an average voter turnout of 52%.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)