Officials will begin counting more than 120 million votes on Saturday to elect a new assembly in Uttar Pradesh, one of the world’s largest poll exercises that is being billed as a virtual semifinal to general elections in two years.
The stakes are high for almost 5,000 candidates across 403 seats in India’s most-populous state that saw pitched campaigning swing from a development narrative and caste arithmetic to religious polarisation and a bitter war-of-words.
Follow complete coverage of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections here.
A clutch of exit polls have predicted the BJP to get closest to the majority mark of 202 but the state’s unmatched caste and religious diversity has often misled pollsters in the past.
Catch live updates in the run up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly election results:
8.30 pm IST: Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Sighvi cites the Bihar election as an example of how exit polls can get the results wrong. “The reasons why exit polls get it wrong is because it is most successful in homogenous communities. They are less accurate in planet Earth’s most diverse spot, India,” he said during a press briefing by the party in Parliament.
If the exit poll outcomes are a true reflection of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election results, the Bharatiya Janata Party will emerge as the single largest party, but may fall short of a majority. A post-poll alliance between the SP and the BSP has suddenly cropped up as a realistic proposition.
8.10 pm IST: The Congress said it was open to post-poll alliances, even though it exuded confidence of emerging victorious in all five states, including Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
“It is obvious that neither politics nor nature permits a vacuum. In such a situation, not a single voter or party would want elections after elections.
“Therefore, in that situation the most easily available handshake which will ensure a certain amount of continuity in governance without a vacuum will be attempted,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
8.15 pm IST: We have compiled a list of our best stories on the state’s election season. Ahead of Saturday’s declaration of results, here is all you need to know on the complex dynamics in Uttar Pradesh.
8.00 pm IST: Preparations for the counting of votes cast in the seven rounds of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections have been completed, an Election Commission (EC) said. Counting of the ballots for the 403 assembly seats will begin at 8 am and continue till the process is completed and the results declared.
At places where the distance between the strongrooms and the counting centers is more, “sanitized corridors” will be created.
Mobile phones have been banned inside the counting centres and information about the developments will be given to journalists only at the media centres made at all counting centres.