Counting of votes, the grand finale in the nine-phased Lok Sabha elections, began on Friday morning across the country.
The Election Commission (EC) said the counting exercise, to be held at 989 counting centres, is likely to be completed by 4.00 pm and trends will start emerging by 9.30 am. By noon, a final picture could emerge on who would be the major players in the 16th Lok Sabha. Postal ballots will be counted first and will be followed by the counting of votes in electronic voting machines.
Of 989 counting centres, the maximum are in Andhra Pradesh at 168, followed by 98 in West Bengal, 76 in Uttar Pradesh, 64 in Odisha, 51 in Assam and 48 in Maharashtra.
Ahead of the counting of votes, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath had said on Thursday that the highest-ever voter turnout of 66% was a result of "good" electoral rolls prepared by the poll authorities across the country. He had said "a lot of steps have been taken to ensure that those eligible to vote find their names in the electoral lists." The exercise to add fresh voters was carried out even days before the first phase of polling was held on April 7. This year’s nine-phased general elections have witnessed the .
8,251 candidates, including 668 women and five transgenders, contested the battle for the 16th Lok Sabha. It including top guns Narendra Modi (Vadodara, Varanasi), Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli), Rahul Gandhi (Amethi) and Arvind Kejriwal (Varanasi) are in the fray, in the largest-ever electoral exercise held in Indian history. While national parties – Congress, BJP, BSP, CPI, CPI (M) and NCP – fielded a total of 1,591 candidates, the 47 state parties fielded 529 candidates. While the over 1,600 registered but unrecognised political parties fielded 2,897 candidates, 3,234 Independents are also in the fray.
The exit polls have projected that BJP will emerge as the single largest party.
The 'ballot unit' is switched on in the presence of senior poll officials and counting agents of candidates and the result command keyed in to get results per machine.
These were the first Lok Sabha elections when the option of 'none of the above' or NOTA was introduced on the EVMs following Supreme Court directions. Before NOTA button was installed on EVMs, voters had to fill up form 49 'O' at the polling station which compromised their identity.
Seeking to ensure transparency, EC has deployed micro observers at all counting tables. The returning officers have been directed to provide printout of each counting round and every table to the counting agents of candidates.
Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have also been put in place. About 550,000 security personnel will be deployed for the counting process. A three-tier cordoning system will be set up at all counting premises to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons inside the counting zones. The first tier of security at the 100-metre periphery will be manned by local police. The second tier will be stationed at the gate and be manned by the state armed police, and the third tier security will be the central armed police force. Moreover, a 100-metre periphery around a counting premise will be demarcated as the pedestrian’s zone. No vehicles will be allowed within this perimeter. Approximately a million counting personnel will be counting the votes collected in 18,78,306 electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the 989 centres.
Counting of some 550 million votes polled in India's general election began Friday morning.