Counting of votes for the assembly elections held in 7 phases in Uttar Pradesh started at 7.00 am on Friday amid tight security arrangements.
The outcome of the UP assembly results will have far-reaching implications on national politics, including the upcoming presidential elections.
The fate of 6070 candidates will be decided in Friday's exercise with main parties in the fray being the ruling Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
Counting of votes, sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), will be taken up in 402 out of 403 seats and results are likely to be announced by the evening.
Polling for the Khaga assembly seat will be held on May 24. The Congress candidate of Khaga was killed in a road accident following which the elections there were countermanded.
Counting of votes for three Lok Sabha seats -- Bilhaur, Mirzapur and Robertsganj -- by-elections to which were held simultaneously with the assembly elections, will also be taken up. These elections were necessitated following the disqualification of the sitting MPs found guilty in the cash-for-query scam.
Results of the Aryanagar assembly seat in Kanpur, smallest constituency in the state, is expected to be announced within two hours, while the fate of the Ghaziabad seat, the largest, might come late in the evening.
Of the total candidates, 1863 are from the recognised parties, 1635 of the registered parties and the rest 2572 are independents. Altogether, 368 women are also in the fray.
To ensure free and fair polls, Election Commission had this time deployed 1.20 lakh security personnel, including central paramilitary forces (CPMF) in each of the seven phases while 1086 central observers were appointed to oversee the fairness of the process.
Poll results will be crucial for the country's politics as the assembly segments in the parliamentary constituencies of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress President Sonia Gandhi will be at stake.
Prominent candidates whose fate will be decided are -- Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav from two seats Bharthana and Gunnaur, assembly speaker Mata Prasad Pandey (Itwa), leader of the opposition and BJP legislature party leader Lalji Tandon (Lucknow-west), BJP state president and former speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi (Allahabad- south), Bahujan Samaj Party legisalture party leader Swami Prasad Maurya (Dalmau), BSP state president Lalji Verma (Tanda), Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tiwari (Rampur Khas), former chief minister and congress candidate Ram Naresh Yadav (Phulpur) rebel Samajwadi Party MP Beni Prasad Verma (Ayodhya), Independent Raghuraj Pratap Singh (Kunda) and mafia don Mukhtar Ansari (Mau).
The SP candidate and younger brother of dacoit Dadua, Bal Kumar, had contested Patti in Pratapgarh while Pipraiya Devi, mother of dacoit Thokia, an RLD candidate was pitted against Sampat Devi of the Gulabi gang in the Naraini seat in Banda district.
Jailed dacoit Nathu Yadav's daughter Santoshi Devi contested against Siya Devi, daughter-in-law of dreaded criminal Umar Kevet in Bebru seat of Banda district.
An estimated 46 per cent of the total 11.44 crore electorate exercised their franchise in 110049 polling booths in the seven phases of polling held on April 7,13,18, 23, 28, May 3 and 8.
About 1.26 lakh EVMs were used during the polling.
Making a record of sorts, not even a single report of poll violence was received. In 2002 assembly polls, there were eight deaths and 156 people were injured in the poll-related violence.
State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Anuj Kumar Bishnoi told in Lucknow on Friday that the counting process in all 70 centres has started.
This time counting would start one hour early from 7.00 am due to the prevailing hot weather, he said, adding that all results are expected to be announced by 5.00 pm with trends coming within 30 minutes of the start of the counting.
Bishnoi said strict three-tier security measures have been put in place at all the counting centres. Two hundred companies of Central Para Military Forces (CPMF) along with PAC and state police will be deployed to provide foolproof security.
In all the 70 counting centres, separate counting halls have been set up for each assembly constituency in the district.
Each hall has 14 counting tables and each table is taking up counting of one booth at a time.
"It will take around 10 minutes at each table to complete counting of votes polled in one booth, including tabulationm, which will be done manually," he said.
For the first time, a third counting personnel drawn from the Centre's employee cadre is monitoring the counting process in each table while the central observers will crosscheck the votes of two tables, randomaly selected, after each round of counting.
Bishnoi said a new software 'Genesis' has been developed through which NIC will send the counting details and results to the Election Commission.
Central observers deputed in the constituencies have been authorised by the Election Commision to declare the results, if there is no dispute.
Videography of the counting process would also be done as per the norms.