Hyderabad: Elaborate security arrangements were in place for the counting of votes in Telangan and Andhra Pradesh where the people had voted in the first phase on April 11.
Counting will start at 8am on Thursday and all results are expected by afternoon.
Eyes were especially focused on Andhra Pradesh, where simultaneous elections were held for the state Assembly as well as the 25 Lok Sabha seats.
The main contest is between the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the opposition YSR Congress party.
In Telangana, 17 Lok Sabha seats were at stake and the state witnessed a three-cornered contest between ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Congress and the BJP.
Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar told the media on Wednesday that the counting will be taken up at 35 centres in 17 Lok Sabha constituencies.
While the counting staff will start making preparations at 5.30am, the official exercise will effectively start at 8am with the counting of postal ballots.
“After the counting of all the votes, five VVPATs will be taken up in each assembly constituency at random to count the votes for comparison. If they match, the Returning Officer will announce the results,” Kumar said adding that the entire process will be conducted in a transparent manner.
The votes of Hyderabad and Secunderabad constituencies will be counted at 13 centres spread over different parts of the state capital.
Additional director-general of police Jitender said the day would start with the shifting of the Electronic Voting Machines, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATS) and other material from 37 strong rooms to the counting centres amid tighter scurity.
“Foolproof arrangements were made at all the strongrooms, with three-layer security,” he said.
Election Commission observers met the top police officials on Wednesday to review the security arrangements.
In Hyderabad and other major cities the respective police commissioners would supervise the arrangements while in districts the superintendents of police will be in charge of the security.
As a precautionary measure prohibitory orders were enforced around all the counting centres and only authorized persons will be allowed to enter. All bars and liquor shops have been ordered to close from Wednesday till Thursday evening.
“No victory procession or public celebration will be permitted”, Jitender said.
In every counting centre 14 tables will be arranged for the opening of EVMs and counting the votes but in Nizamabad constituency where 185 candidates were in the fray there will be 36 tables in every counting centre.
In Andhra Pradesh also massive security arrangements were in place in view of the palpable tension between the supporters of ruling Telugu Desam and opposition YSR Congress party. Violence during the polling had left two persons dead.
In addition to the state police, 90 companies of paramilitary forces were also deployed to maintain law and order.
Chief Electoral Officer of Andhra Pradesh Gopalakrishna Dwivedi told the media in Amarvati on Wednesday that the counting will be done at 36 centres across the state. Massive security arrangements involving both the state police and central forces were made outside every counting centre.
If any discrepancy was found between the EVM and the VVPAT counting result, recounting will be taken up two or three times, Dwivedi said.
While most of the exit polls have forecast YSRCP’s victory in the state assembly elections, Telugu Desam party was still exuding confidence of returning to power winning 110 of the 175 seats.
In a related development YSR Congress President Jaganmohan Reddy on Wednesday shifted his base from Hyderabad to his residence cum office in Tadepally mandal of Guntur district near Amarvati.
Jagan accompanied by his family members and some senior party leaders left his home “Lotus Pond” in Hyderabad on Wednesday afternoon. So far he was operating from Hyderabad.
While the YSRCP state office was shifted to Amarvati few days ago he chose to move his base just a day before the counting. His mother and honorary president of the party Vijayamma and sister Sharmila’s family were staying in Bengaluru so far and they too were expected to move to Amarvati.
Jagan’s wife Bharati and their younger daughter Harsha Reddy will be with him. His eldest daughter Varsha Reddy was studying in London School of Economics.
Huge billboards have already sprung up across Andhra Pradesh congratulating Jaganmohan Reddy in advance on his “electoral victory”.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister and TDP Supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu spent the day in his constituency Kuppam and offered prayers at Gangamma temple as part of an ongoing fare.
He will also reach Amarvati by this evening. Naidu who visited New Delhi and several state capitals over the last few days to build a non BJP front, expressed confidence that he will return to power for the second term.
Police have made strict security arrangements around the homes of both Jagan and YSR.