Bihar election results will be available later today, the Election Commission said Tuesday evening, as the counting of votes - which began at 8 AM - neared the 12-hour mark. The poll body said results were being delayed because of safety measures in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
These measures included a 63 per cent increase in EVMs (electronic voting machines) and nearly double the number of polling booths - from 65,000 in 2015 to 1.02 lakh this year. There have also been an increase in postal ballots. In addition, the number of counting centres has also increased - from 38 (in 2015) to 55 - in order to maintain social distancing between election officials.
Around 2.57 crore votes - out of 4.11 cast - had been counted till 5.30 PM. Of these postal ballots were over 1.6 lakh and another 52,000 were from senior citizens.
"The results will come late night. Counting is still going on in all places. We have told couting officers not to be in a hurry and take their time. So, while it may take more time, it is because this is not a normal election," Umesh Sinha, the Election Commission's Secretary General, said.
The Election Commission official also dismissed allegations that counting of postal ballots had been stopped. "It was found this allegation is not true... no counting has been stopped," he said.
As many as 7,737 rounds of counting had been scheduled for Bihar, of which 4,858 are done. Of the state's 243 constituencies, counting was almost over in 119, the poll body added.
In 18 constituencies, though, the margin is less than 1,000 votes, adding to the nail-biting drama surrounding the BJP-JDU's bid to retain power in the state.
21 seats have been declared, of which the BJP and RJD have won six each. Nitish Kumar's JDU has won three and the Congress has won two, with the rest going to Left and smaller parties.
The next update, the Election Commission added, would take place at 10 PM.
The poll body referred those anxious for the results to refer to its mobile phone app or check its official website for the latest numbers. "We try to give the results as soon as we get it. People from anywhere can see the results on our app, where we give authentic results," Mr Singh said.
As the wait for final results goes on, leads from Bihar show the ruling NDA six seats ahead of the opposition alliance led by Tejashwi Yadav's RJD.
The BJP is ahead in 73 seats and is set to emerge as the single-largest party in the NDA, displacing Nitish Kumar's JDU (which is ahead in 41 seats) and setting up a potential clash between the parties on the issue of chief minister.
Tejashwi Yadav's RJD, predicted to win by exit polls, is trailing overall but is set to emerge as the single-largest party in the state with leads in 76 seats. Its ally, the Congress, is ahead in 20 and Left parties are ahead in 18.
Most political parties have refused to commit to any clear trend or result, pointing to the delay in counting of votes and declaration of results.
Bihar voted in three rounds from October 28 to November 7.
The Election Commission also released details about counting for bypolls to more than 50 Assembly seats (and one Lok Sabha constituency) across the country.
According to data from the poll body's website at 6.56 pm, the results of seven seats in Gujarat, one in Haryana, two in Nagaland, Karnataka and Jharkhand, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, four in Manipur and three in Uttar Pradesh had been declared.
With input from PTI