Assam: Number of counting halls has been increased to 331, compared to 143 set up during 2016 assembly polls, to ensure social distancing and other Covid-19 related standard operating procedures.
Counting of votes for Assam’s 126 assembly seats, contested by 946 candidates, has begun amid a nationwide crisis triggered by the second wave of Covid-19. Most exit polls have predicted a victory for the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led alliance, in the state.
BJP fought the elections in alliance with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), while the Congress-led 10-party alliance includes All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Bodoland Peoples’ Party (BPF).
Besides the two main fronts, another front comprising two new regional parties, Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal, was also in the fray.
Chief electoral officer Nitin Khade said the number of counting halls has been increased to 331, compared to 143 set up during 2016 polls, to ensure social distancing and other Covid-19 related standard operating procedures. 279 of these centres will handle electronic voting machines (EVM) and 52 will count postal ballots.
“Strong security measures have been made to ensure smooth conduct of the Counting process. The linkage between [the] Strong Room and [the] Counting Hall will be maintained with strict security to avoid any untoward situation. There will be three tiers of security in respect of the counting venues,” Khade said in a statement.
Khade added that the counting process was expected to take longer this time due to additional measures including greater number of EVMs and postal ballots used to help contain the spread of Covid-19.
In 2016, there were a total of 29,173 postal votes for the entire state whereas, this time, the figure has increased by 414% to 150,033.
In 2016, BJP won 60 seats to form the party’s first government in Assam with the support of AGP (14) and the BPF (12). Congress won only 26 seats and the AIUDF won 13.
According to the India Today exit poll, BJP-led alliance was likely to win 75-85 seats and the front led by the Congress was likely to win 40-50 seats. News24-Chanakya predicted 70 seats to the front led by the BJP and 56 to the Congress-led alliance.
The Republic-CNX poll predicted 74-84 seats for the BJP and 40-50 for the Congress, while the Times Now poll gave 72 seats to the BJP and 53 to the Congress.
The ABP-CVoter poll predicted a close contest with 58-71 seats to the BJP-led alliance and 53-66 to the Congress-led front.
The BJP maintains that it will win at least 85 seats, based on its own survey. The Congress has dismissed the exit polls as “biased” and “manipulated”, adding the party will form the next government in the state.
In a statement issued late on Saturday evening, the Congress said it won’t send spokespersons to TV studios for debates related to election results due to the current Covid-19 crisis. However, the party said its spokespersons will be available to answer queries over phone.