Workers of Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party performed a havan or ritual on Saturday morning, praying for victory just before counting began for what promises to be a game-changing election. The ritual was held not far from the residence in Lucknow of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is hoping to defy exit poll predictions of a BJP win. Workers wearing the party's trademark red caps were seen at the havan, with photos of Akhilesh Yadav and his wife Dimple Yadav in the backdrop. Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for more than two months in Uttar Pradesh, addressing 24 rallies in what is seen as the most important election he has faced since winning the 2014 general election.
- Samajwadi Party workers perform havan ahead of counting
- Exit polls have predicted a victory for BJP in Uttar Pradesh
- Open to post-poll tie-up with BSP if verdict is fractured: Akhilesh Yadav
Exit polls predict that BJP will emerge as the largest party.
Akhilesh Yadav tied up with the Congress and addressed many joint rallies with Rahul Gandhi. Months before the election, the 43-year-old Chief Minister engineered a massive change in his party and took over control from father Mulayam Singh Yadav, who founded the Samajwadi Party. Mulayam Singh largely stayed away from the campaign.
With their fingers crossed, Samajwadi Party workers are praying that their young leader's gamble pays off. Workers also performed rituals in Kanpur.
Akhilesh Yadav pulled off a big win in the previous election.
Amid less-than-encouraging predictions this time, Akhilesh Yadav said on Thursday that all "secular forces" should unite to stop the BJP. After ruling out a post-election tie-up with the other regional heavyweight Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, he did a u-turn, saying he could explore that possibility if the verdict is fractured. "Nobody wants President's Rule, the BJP to run Uttar Pradesh by remote control," the chief minister told BBC Hindi in an interview.