Shimla: Counting of votes for 68 seats in Himachal Pradesh will be held on Thursday.
Here are the latest developments:
Votes will be counted at 39 centres under heavy security. Being a smaller state with fewer seats than Gujarat, where counting is also being held, all results are expected by afternoon in Himachal.
While the ruling BJP is claiming it will record an easy win, three opinion polls have given the Congress a clear edge. These variously predict that the Congress will win between 30 and 40 seats and the BJP between 23 and 35.
The results are crucial for the future of Congress leader and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who had to resign from the Union Cabinet over allegations of corruption. He was appointed the party's chief in the state just days before the polling.
A confident Prem Kumar Dhumal of the BJP, the state's chief minister, has asserted he will create history by getting a second consecutive term. If that happens, it will be the first time a ruling party will beat anti-incumbency and retain power for two straight terms.
The November 4 elections saw a record turnout of 74.70 per cent.
The Congress is reading the high voter turnout as a clear indication of an anti-incumbency vote. Virbhadra Singh says the party will get a decisive lead this time.
Kangra district, the largest in the state with 15 seats, could play the decider in the elections. The region was dominated by the BJP in the last elections.
The Congress and the BJP are contesting all 68 seats. The Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), formed by BJP rebel Maheshwar Singh, has put up candidates in 36 seats and could give a tough fight in Shimla, Kullu, Palampur and Jaswan Pragpur.
Of the total 459 candidates, a record number of 106 are independents. They and rebels, such as Congress legislator Yograj and former minister Ishwar Dass, could play spoilsport for the BJP and the Congress.
In the last elections, the BJP won by a landslide, winning 41 seats. The Congress bagged 23 and the BSP one seat.