Srinagar/Ranchi, Dec 23: Counting of votes begins in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand which witnessed a record turnout in the five-phase elections which witnessed the multi-cornered contests to elect their assemblies.
The elections in the two states witnessed 66 per cent voting with authorities making massive security arrangements to prevent any attempts by militants or Maoists to disrupt the polls.
The turnout in Jammu and Kashmir, where polling was held for 87 seats, has been the highest after 1987 despite a boycott call by separatists and militants.
The state has seen a quadrangular fight among ruling National Conference, main opposition PDP, BJP and Congress, which parted ways with NC just ahead of the elections.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who led NC’s bid to retain power, and Opposition PDP’s chief ministerial candidate Mufti Mohammad Sayeed are among the 821 candidates.
PDP, which had 21 members in the 11th Assembly, is expecting to be the single-largest party, riding on the anti-incumbency and anger among the flood victims.
The political observers are expected to keep a watch the result of Handwara assembly constituency in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district where separatist-turned mainstream politician Sajjad Gani Lone is trying his luck.
BJP launched an aggressive campaign as part of its ‘Mission 44+’ — the magic number required for simple majority in the state Assembly — during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several top leaders of the party addressed election rallies across the state.
The election outcome will also judge BJP’s assessment of its chances of making inroads into the only Muslim-majority state of the country. The party did not name a chief ministerial candidate. BJP had 11 MLAs and any increase in the tally this year will be claimed as a Modi victory.
In 2008 polls, NC had won 28 seats, Congress 17 and PDP 21. BJP had 11, Panthers’ Party 3 and CPM had one. Independents had bagegd six seats.
Jharkhand has registered an overall 66% turnout for the 81 assembly seats. The state, which has been battling Maoist violence, bettered the previous mark of 54.2% in the 2004 assembly polls.
With nine governments and three stints of President’s Rule in 14 years, Jharkhand has witnessed a fractured mandates in both 2005 and 2009 assembly elections.
In Jharkhand, BJP and JMM had won 18 seats each in the last election. Congress had 13, JVN(P) had 11, AJSU had six, RJD five snd JD(U) two.
The state has so far been ruled by five tribal chief ministers — Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda (thrice), Shibu Soren (thrice), Madhu Koda (once) and Hemant Soren (incumbent).
BJP had formed the first coalition government under Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda had been the head of BJP-led coalitions thrice.
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) headed by chief minister Hemant Soren is seeking to retain power in the face of challenge by the BJP.
Political observers and opinion polls are predicting a hung assembly in Jammu and Kashmir, but expectations are that the BJP will be the leading party in Jharkhand.
(With Agency Inputs)