Counting of votes will be held today for the Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, being viewed as a prestige battle for three-term Chief Minister Raman Singh of the BJP and the opposition Congress' fight for resurgence.
This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and Communist Party of India (CPI) has added another dimension to the electoral politics of the state which has been dominated by the BJP and the Congress.
Several exit polls have predicted a neck-and-neck fight between the big two and some have projected victory for the Rahul Gandhi-led party.
Assembly Elections 2018 Live Results : Chhattisgarh
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a fourth straight term in office, the Congress is aiming to stage a comeback after being out of power for the last 15 years.
Tight security arrangements have been made at the counting centres in all 27 districts, particularly the Naxal-affected ones, where voting was held in two phases on November 12 and 20 to elect a new 90-member Assembly.
The state had recorded 76.60 per cent voter turnout.
"Counting for all 90 seats would start at 8 am at the 27 district headquarters. All preparations have been completed and a three-layer security has been arranged at each counting centre," an election official told PTI.
Counting of postal ballots will begin at 8 am and half-an-hour after they are counted, the process to count votes from the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will begin, he said.
As many as 5,184 counting personnel and 1,500 micro-observers have been appointed for smooth conduct of the process, he said.
In every counting hall, 14 tables will be arranged in rows of seven tables each, apart from separate tables for the returning officer and for counting of postal ballots, the official said.
The fate of 1269 contestants, including the chief minister, his 11 ministers and state presidents of the BJP and the Congress will be decided Tuesday.
Raman Singh is locked in a fight in Rajnandgaon seat with Congress' Karuna Shukla, the niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
On the eve of counting of votes, the BJP and the Congress claimed victory, while Mr Jogi's outfit also expressed confidence of forming the next government.
State BJP chief Dharamlal Kaushik said the party will register a victory for the fourth consecutive term and the Congress should accept its defeat.
"The Congress should not focus on victory now instead it should be prepared to tackle the infighting that will erupt within its leaders after facing the drubbing," he said.
The BJP has been in office for the last 15 years due to its "positive and performance-oriented" politics, he said.
Brushing aside predictions of a Congress win being made by several exit polls, Mr Kaushik said the post-election surveys were based on assumptions only.
"In democracy, a government is not formed based on assumptions but is elected by the trust of people and development schemes coupled with pro-people policies", he said.
Mr Kaushik also rejected the predictions of a hung assembly and said the BJP will romp home with majority.
Congress state communication wing chief Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said the people of the state, particularly farmers, have suffered a lot during the 15-year rule of the BJP government and have voted for a change this time.
"On Tuesday, the state will get rid of the BJP government and its misrule, and the Congress will script a history by winning more than 50 seats", he said.
JCC (J) Spokesperson Iqbal Ahmed Rizvi claimed the people have lost faith in both the BJP and the Congress.
"Ajit Jogi will become chief minister after the alliance of three parties will come to power on Tuesday", he said.
Of the 90 Assembly segments, 51 are for general category, 10 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 29 segments for Scheduled Tribes.
In the 2013 elections, the BJP won 49 seats, the Congress 39, while one seat each was bagged by the BSP and an Independent.
During campaigning, the Congress tried to build a narrative against the BJP by highlighting issues such as "misrule" and "agrarian distress".
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had announced that his party would waive crop loans of farmers within ten days of coming to power in Chhattisgarh.
He had said the money for the waiver would come from the "likes of" Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Anil Ambani.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had targeted the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family, saying they were the "only beneficiaries" of power.
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