India awaits vote count with fingers crossed

India awaits vote count with fingers crossed

By: || Updated: 05 Mar 2012 07:09 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 Tuesday with political players
keeping their fingers crossed.

The mammoth counting exercise is
set to begin at 8 a.m. in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and
Goa where the staggered elections ended 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

If the exit polls prove correct, it would mark the end of
five years of Mayawati's rule in the country's most populous state.

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

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
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.

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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