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Representative image

Counting of votes begins

ANI | Updated: May 23, 2019 08:04 IST

New Delhi [India], May 23 (ANI): The counting of votes in 542 Lok Sabha constituencies began on Thursday amidst tight security, capping a two-month long election process which witnessed high-octane campaigning and charges of tampering EVMs and violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
The counting process also started at 8 am for four state assemblies -- Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and by-elections in 22 seats in Tamil Nadu, which went to polls along with the general elections. The outcome of the by-polls could change the fate of the AIADMK-led government in the state.
Representatives of political parties were present at the counting centres across India where the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were kept in strong rooms.
Most exit polls have predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP-led NDA whose campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The opposition, however, has rejected the exit polls, calling them wrong and erroneous.
Among the keenly watched constituencies are Varanasi from where Prime Minister Modi is seeking re-election and Amethi represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi since 2004. Rahul is also contesting from Wayanad in Kerala. His mother Sonia Gandhi is seeking another term from Raebareli.
The Election Commission on Wednesday rejected the demand of 22 opposition parties for counting of five VVPAT samples first and also taking up 100 per cent counting of VVPATs in case of any mismatch with an EVM.
Opposition parties also alleged that EVMs were replaced from the strong rooms in some constituencies in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh after what they said was suspicious movement of the voting machines on Tuesday.
However, the EC had rubbished the charge, terming it as "absolutely false". A 24-hour control room has been made functional at Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi to monitor complaints relating to the voting machines.
Ahead of the counting process, a three-tier security system was put in place at the EVM strong rooms. The counting of votes is being carried out under CCTV surveillance.
As per the EC's directives, five polling stations per Assembly segment will be selected on a random basis for verification of VVPAT slips. The verification process of VVPATs may take four to five hours.
The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections commenced on April 11 and the last phase of voting was held on May 19. The dates were announced by the EC on March 10, following which the MCC had come into effect.
Over 8,000 candidates are in the fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats. The election to the Vellore seat in Tamil Nadu was countermanded following the seizure of cash from a godown allegedly belonging to a DMK leader.
In the two-month long election process, leaders cutting across party lines were engaged in a high-decibel campaign, making promises and launching attacks on their opponents in a bid to woo the voters.
At a dinner hosted by BJP president Amit Shah for NDA allies on Tuesday, the Prime Minister had said that the NDA is an alliance which would represent the country's expectations and ambitions.
"We have become an organic entity. The NDA has played an important role in fulfilling the regional aspirations," Modi said.
Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is banking on his party's proposed NYAY scheme, which promises to provide Rs 72,000 annually to 20 per cent of the country's poorest.
He and other Congress leaders repeatedly attacked BJP for alleged irregularities in Rafale fighter jet deal, demonetisation and GST, besides employment and agrarian issues. (ANI)