M A I N   N E W S

Wait over, it’s judgement day
55 cr votes to decide fate of 8,251 candidates for 543 seats; BJP upbeat, Cong stoic
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
The denouement to the marathon General Election arrives on Friday, 39 days after the first vote was polled to elect members to the 16th Lok Sabha.

India eagerly awaits a new government, as the results start pouring in for 543 constituencies that went to polls in April and May. Counting for the nine-phase polling will begin at 8 am across 989 counting centres, with the BJP hoping to ride to power at the Centre.

The Election Commission and states authorities have made arrangements for the swift flow of results. Some 550 million of the 800-odd million eligible voters exercised their franchise to elect a representative from the 8,251 candidates who entered the fray.

Buoyed by the results of a plethora of exit polls that have predicted a clean to near-clean victory for the BJP-led NDA, the party appears confident that its well-crafted campaign under the leadership of Narendra Modi will end its decade-long stint in the Opposition.

Since the end of polling, BJP president Rajnath Singh has been on the move, calling on the leadership of the RSS, its PM candidate Modi and seniors such as LK Advani to ensure there were no speed-breakers en route.

Ever since number crunchers decoded opinion and exit polls favouring the BJP, the mood in the camp is upbeat. The flurry of activity reflected the confidence among the leadership on wresting power from the Congress-led UPA.

On the other hand, the Congress approach has been stoic. It refused to be taken down by the downward slump predicted for the party, even as it prepares to firewall its chief campaigner Rahul Gandhi from any criticism. Yet, the absence of the Congress vice-president from the farewell dinner hosted by party chief Sonia Gandhi for PM Manmohan Singh on Wednesday night added spice to animated discussions, both in television studios and political parties.

The Congress insists it is not dispirited by the exit polls, citing the previous General Election when the final tally exceeded projections. In 2009, the Congress won 206 seats on its own and won the required majority comfortably with its allies, while the BJP then won 116 seats.

Besides facing anti-incumbency, the Congress and other political parties are wary of an untested phenomenon -- the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The nascent party shook established parties out of their stupor when it pulled off an incredible win in the Delhi Assembly election last year. Little wonder then that AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, who resigned as the Delhi Chief Minister, challenging Modi in Varanasi fired up the electoral battle.

These elections will also show the extent of damage the Trinamool Congress continues to inflict upon Left parties in its traditional bastion of West Bengal as also the ability of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party to withstand the “Modi wave” the BJP claimed to have created in UP.

The grand finale

5 am Poll staff report for duty

8 am Counting begins at 989 centres with postal ballots; half-an-hour after its done, counting begins from over seven lakh EVMs

9.30 am First trends emerge

12 noon Know the major players in the 16th Lok Sabha

4 pm Final result seals fate of 8,251 candidates PTi





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