India awaits vote count with fingers crossed

India awaits vote count with fingers crossed

By: || Updated: 05 Mar 2012 07:39 AM

New Delhi:
Millions of votes polled in five states in India's biggest popularity test
since the 2009 Lok Sabha battle will be counted on Tuesday with political
players keeping their fingers crossed. The mammoth counting exercise is
set to begin at 8 am in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and
Goa where the staggered elections ended on Saturday. The Election
Commission, having won kudos for successfully overseeing the five-state
elections, says it was ready for the job.

With exit polls
predicting a mixed bag of results, leading political parties anxiously
awaited the results, expected to be clear by noon, even as they publicly
vowed that victory was theirs. All eyes were on Uttar Pradesh, where exit
polls have predicted a hung 403-member assembly with the Samajwadi Party
(SP) tipped to end up on top and the Congress a poor fourth.

the exit polls prove correct, it would mark the end of five years of
Mayawati's rule in the country's most populous state. Most pundits spoke
of Congress retaining Manipur, a BJP surge in Goa, a neck-and-neck finish
in Punjab between the Congress and the BJP-Akali Dal alliance, and a
possible Congress win in Uttarakhand, ousting the BJP.

significant highlight of the elections this time has been the huge voter
turnout. Record voting in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Uttar Pradesh has
drawn varied interpretations, with the opposition parties reading it as a
factor in their favour.

While Manipur, Goa, Punjab and
Uttarakhand recorded one day balloting, there were seven rounds of polling
in Uttar Pradesh. On Monday evening, Congress spokesperson Renuka
Choudhury said her party was poised to win in all five states -- a claim
that had few takers.

Her party colleague and Steel Minister Sri
Prakash Jaiswal, an MP from Kanpur, however, made it clear that the
Congress was ready to see a secular combination take power in Uttar
Pradesh. The most forthright was Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader
Rajnath Singh, who told IANS that the BJP was unlikely to form a
government in Uttar Pradesh.

A former chief minister and a former
BJP president, Rajnath Singh has not had cordial relations with Uma
Bharti, a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister who ran the party's
campaign in Uttar Pradesh, upsetting many in the party. Minister of State
for Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat said the Congress would form
governments in Punjab and BJP-ruled Uttarakhand.

He made no
reference to Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress once held sway but where it
has now been out of power since 1989. While the BSP has not reacted to the
exit polls, the one man most pleased with himself is Samajwadi Party
leader Akhilesh Yadav.

The son of party chief Mulayam Singh
Yadav, he is confident of the Samajwadi Party taking power again in Uttar
Pradesh. "We have been saying we will get a majority," said Yadav Junior,
who has emerged as the Samajwadi Party's new face in the sprawling state.

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