Assembly polls verdict: EC ready, politicians anxious as India awaits results
Millions of votes polled in five states in India's biggest popularity test since the 2009 Lok Sabha battle will be counted on Tuesday with political players keeping their fingers crossed.
The mammoth counting exercise is set to begin at 8 am in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Goa where the staggered elections ended on Saturday.
The Election Commission, having won kudos for successfully overseeing the five-state elections, says it was ready for the job.
With exit polls predicting a mixed bag of results, leading political parties anxiously awaited the results, expected to be clear by noon, even as they publicly vowed that victory was theirs.
All eyes were on Uttar Pradesh, where exit polls have predicted a hung 403-member assembly with the Samajwadi Party (SP) tipped to end up on top and the Congress a poor fourth.
If the exit polls prove correct, it would mark the end of five years of Mayawati's rule in the country's most populous state.
Most pundits spoke of Congress retaining Manipur, a BJP surge in Goa, a neck-and-neck finish in Punjab between the Congress and the BJP-Akali Dal alliance, and a possible Congress win in Uttarakhand, ousting the BJP.
A significant highlight of the elections this time has been the huge voter turnout.
Record voting in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Uttar Pradesh has drawn varied interpretations, with the opposition parties reading it as a factor in their favour.
While Manipur, Goa, Punjab and Uttarakhand recorded one day balloting, there were seven rounds of polling in Uttar Pradesh.
On Monday evening, Congress spokesperson Renuka Choudhury said her party was poised to win in all five states -- a claim that had few takers.
Her party colleague and steel minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal, an MP from Kanpur, however, made it clear that the Congress was ready to see a secular combination take power in Uttar Pradesh.
The most forthright was Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajnath Singh, who told IANS that the BJP was unlikely to form a government in Uttar Pradesh.
A former chief minister and a former BJP president, Rajnath Singh has not had cordial relations with Uma Bharti, a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister who ran the party's campaign in Uttar Pradesh, upsetting many in the party.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Harish Rawat said the Congress would form governments in Punjab and BJP-ruled Uttarakhand.
He made no reference to Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress once held sway but where it has now been out of power since 1989.
While the BSP has not reacted to the exit polls, the one man most pleased with himself is Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.
The son of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, he is confident of the Samajwadi Party taking power again in Uttar Pradesh.
"We have been saying we will get a majority," said Yadav Junior, who has emerged as the Samajwadi Party's new face in the sprawling state.