NEW DELHI: The countdown has begun for the counting of votes. The two big party headquarters, from where the battle for the Delhi Durbar was plotted, offered a study in contrast on the eve of the big day. In the backyard of 11 Ashoka Road, the BJP headquarters, kilos of ladoos were being moulded by halwais (traditional sweet makers), whereas the lawns of 24 Akbar Road, the Congress head office, resembled a forlorn battlefield during a brief cessation in hostilities.
But even in this gritty scenario with a much-predicted defeat staring them in the face, the battle managers of the Grand Old Party were plotting a great, dramatic escape — offer prime ministership to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a proposal by Rashid Alvi, which was later nipped in the bud.
Dozens of tents have been put up for the inevitable feeding frenzy of media crews on the Congress lawns. It is evident that party leaders hope that even with a vastly reduced strength, they still could be at the centre of lot of significant deal-making that could shape the next government.
As for the BJP, it was equally clear that the party realises that if the numbers are iffier than they expect they might have to play through a tough and extended extra time to carry the game forward to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Not one but two spokespersons of the BJP came out to say after an internal briefing that the party was expecting the saffron surge to take the tally to around 240-250.
The two main protagonists of the play, Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, were, however, at a discreet distance from the centre of anticipation. The referee of the nine-phase long match, the Election Commission, meanwhile, was readying to announce the final outcome for the 16th Lok Sabha, the elections for which witnessed a turnout of 66.38 per cent — the highest ever in the history of general elections.
The first EVM will be opened at 8.30 on Friday morning under the supervision of 1163 observers. According to Election Commission guidelines, the EVMs will be opened half-and-hour after the postal ballots have been counted.
The ‘ballot unit’ is switched on in the presence of senior poll officials and counting agents of candidates. The Returning Officers will give a print out of each counting round and each EVM to candidates’ agents.
In order to maintain utmost transparency during counting, the poll panel has deployed micro observers at each counting table. Around 5,50,000 security personnel will be deployed for the process and a three-tier cordoning system will be set up at all counting premises to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons. The trends will be evident by noon. And by Friday evening, the winner of the blockbuster will be declared. If it is a clear majority or near about for the BJP, as is being predicted, the initial contours of the next Government of India will be known by night fall. Or else, it would be a nail-biting wait for a few more days to come.