Assembly elections | Four States gear up for counting of votes on December 3

With exit polls suggesting a mixed bag for both Congress and BJP, they are said to be in touch with smaller parties and Independent candidates

December 02, 2023 08:44 pm | Updated 09:55 pm IST - New Delhi

Election Commission staff prepare for vote counting scheduled on December 3 for the Madhya Pradesh elections, in Indore.;

Election Commission staff prepare for vote counting scheduled on December 3 for the Madhya Pradesh elections, in Indore.; | Photo Credit: ANI

The outcome of the Assembly elections in the four crucial States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana will be known on December 3, giving a peep into the possible political permutations and combinations in store for the Lok Sabha election in 2024.

The counting of votes will begin at 8 a.m. for 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, 119 seats in Telangana and 199 seats in Rajasthan, where the election to one seat was postponed owing to the death of a candidate. The counting will be held amid tight security and only people holding valid passes will be allowed to enter the counting centres, election officials said.

The Assembly elections to these four States as well as Mizoram were held between November 7 and 30. The counting in Mizoram would, however, be held on December 4, the Election Commission announced on Friday.

While the Congress and the BJP are in a direct fight in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, in Telangana, the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) is looking to defend its citadel for a third time.

Exit polls have shown a mixed bag for both the Congress and the BJP in the polls. While the Congress was predicted to pip the BRS in Telangana and retain Chhattisgarh, though with a reduced majority, the BJP has been given an edge in Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan has emerged as a cliffhanger with pollsters split between the Congress and the BJP as the winner.

Poaching fears

Amid the predictions of close contests, both the BJP and the Congress are understood to have begun contacting smaller parties and Independent candidates. There were reports that parties are gearing up to herd their winning candidates to other States to prevent poaching.

However, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar, who is one of the key Congress leaders, dismissed reports that he had been asked to bring new Telangana MLAs to his State. “No MLA will be going anywhere. Nobody has given me a responsibility or called me. ... I am confident that we will win all the States,” Mr. Shivakumar said.

A good performance in these elections will give the Congress hopes of improving its standing in the INDIA bloc. The BJP, on the other hand, is looking to wrest back all the Hindi-heartland States from the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

In Madhya Pradesh, where as many as 2,533 candidates are in the fray, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his party would retain power with a “huge majority”, while his rival and State Congress chief Kamal Nath said he had complete confidence in the voters of the State.

In Rajasthan, which has alternated between the Congress and the BJP each election, stakes are high for both, particularly Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who has been embroiled in a bitter factional fight with former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot.

Both Mr. Gehlot and former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje Scindia met Governor Kalraj Mishra ahead of Sunday’s counting.

Tight security arrangements have been made in all counting centres in Chhattisgarh, including the ones affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). A total of 1,181 candidates are in the fray in the State. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Deputy Chief Minister T.S. Singh Deo (both from the Congress) and former CM Raman Singh of the BJP are among the top leaders in contest.

In Telangana, BRS supremo Chandrashekhar Rao, his son K.T. Rama Rao, Congress State president A Revanth Reddy and BJP Lok Sabha members Bandi Sanjay Kumar, D. Arvind and Soyam Bapu Rao are some of the important candidates.

The BRS fielded candidates in all 119 seats, the Congress in 118, the BJP in 111 and the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM in nine Assembly constituencies.

“After a long time had a peaceful sleep. Exit polls can take a hike. Exact polls will give us good news,” BRS working president K.T. Rama Rao said in a post on X dismissing the exit poll predictions.

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