Counting of votes in Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh began this morning amid tight security.

Considered the first crucial test of popularity for major political parties after the Lok Sabha polls, the polling in the three states were held on October 13.

The counting process began at 0800 hours at various centres under the strict vigil of the officials of the Election Commission, which has made elaborate arrangements to ensure that the exercise was carried out smoothly.

In a communication to Chief Electoral Officers of the three states, the EC has directed them to ensure that the result of round—wise counting of votes are immediately displayed prominently on blackboards inside the counting centre and announced through public address system.

The next round of counting should be taken up only after display of results of previous round on the black board, as per the EC directive.

Stakes are high in Maharashtra, where there are several chief ministerial aspirants. Rivals Shiv Sena and its offshoot MNS are fighting for the same political space and the ruling Congress—NCP combine is aiming a hat—trick. There are 1,820 independents, mostly party rebels, in fray.

Amravati constituency in Maharashtra has become the cynosure of all eyes as President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra alias Raosaheb Shekhawat of Congress is pitted against party rebel Sunil Deshmukh in that seat.

The Congress has been ruling the state for the last 10 years in alliance with the NCP.

Exit polls by two television channels have projected that ruling Congress—NCP alliance would emerge victorious in Maharashtra assembly elections and one of them predicted Congress victory in Haryana polls.

In Haryana, Congress is seeking a second term in office on the plank of development. The opposition in the state is a house divided with BJP snapping ties with Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD and BSP coming out of an alliance with Haryana Janhit Congress.

Congress appears to be on a strong wicket in Arunachal Pradesh where Chief Minister Khandu Dorjee is among three party candidates elected unopposed.

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