India’s mammoth electoral exercise will come to an end on Friday with the Election Commission gearing up to count 550 million votes sealed in more than 1.8 million electronic voting machines (EVMs) in about 12 hours.
A daunting task by all standards, considering that around a million people will be engaged in the counting activity and half a million security personnel would be there to ensure that it happens without any hassles.
Friday’s exercise will bring the curtains down on Mandate 2014 that began with its announcement on March 5. The polling was conducted in nine phases between April 7 and May 12.
The counting centres – mostly in close proximity to EVM store rooms – are being manned by the central paramilitary forces, home ministry officials said.
In addition, about half a million police personnel from the states will also be deployed besides the local administration sanitising areas near the counting centres.
“We are fully prepared for the last big thing (counting),” said a senior EC functionary, adding that specific instructions have been issued to the returning officers of the 543 Lok Sabha seats for seamless counting of votes. “No unauthorised person is allowed within 100 metres of a counting centre.”
Those with gun-toting security personnel will not be allowed inside the counting centres even if they hold top positions in the government. Candidates having security cover would be allowed if they voluntarily leave their security personnel behind. The only exception to the rule would be those enjoying SPG protection, such as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is contesting from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
The EC has advised the candidates not to nominate elected representatives or government officials as their counting agents, who would be allowed entry at 989 counting centres set up across India an hour before the exercise starts.
It would be a long day for the counting personnel as they have to report at work at about 4 am. In a couple of hours, they would be allocated counting tables in different halls through a draw of lots. By eight in the morning, the counting will start with postal ballots. EC officials expect the fate of about 8,251 candidates to be decided in the next 8-12 hours in most of the constituencies.
“Normally, the delay in announcing final results happens if a candidate seeks re-counting and the returning officer agrees with it,” an official said.
The majority of counting centres will have broadband connectivity for seamless flow of trends after each round of counting to an EC control room at Nirvachan Bhawan in Delhi.
To ensure that trends and results from counting centres are available on the Election Commission’s website on a real-time basis, the National Informatics Centre – the government’s information technology arm – has provided additional servers to the poll panel.
Full coverage: My India my vote - May 16 countdown