The counting of votes in 542 Lok Sabha constituencies began on Thursday amidst tight security, capping a two-month long election process which witnessed high-octane campaigning and charges of tampering EVMs and violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
The counting process also started at 8 am for four state assemblies -- Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and by-elections in 22 seats in Tamil Nadu, which went to polls along with the general elections. The outcome of the by-polls could change the fate of the AIADMK-led government in the state.
Commenting on the same, Anupam Kher took to his Twitter and wrote: "प्रजातंत्र के इस महोत्सव में आज भारत का भविष्य और भी उज्जवल होगा। जय हो।" [sic]
Coming back to the counting, representatives of political parties were present at the counting centres across India where the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were kept in strong rooms.
Most exit polls have predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP-led NDA whose campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The opposition, however, has rejected the exit polls, calling them wrong and erroneous.
Among the keenly watched constituencies are Varanasi from where Prime Minister Modi is seeking re-election and Amethi represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi since 2004. Rahul is also contesting from Wayanad in Kerala. His mother Sonia Gandhi is seeking another term from Raebareli.
The Election Commission on Wednesday rejected the demand of 22 opposition parties for counting of five VVPAT samples first and also taking up 100 per cent counting of VVPATs in case of any mismatch with an EVM.
Ahead of the counting process, a three-tier security system was put in place at the EVM strong rooms. The counting of votes is being carried out under CCTV surveillance. As per the EC's directives, five polling stations per Assembly segment will be selected on a random basis for verification of VVPAT slips. The verification process of VVPATs may take four to five hours.
The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections commenced on April 11 and the last phase of voting was held on May 19. The dates were announced by the EC on March 10, following which the MCC had come into effect.
Over 8,000 candidates are in the fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats.
(With inputs from ANI)