Politicians of all hues are keeping their fingers crossed in the hill state of Uttarakhand, a day ahead of the crucial vote count after last month's assembly polls. While most exit polls on Thursday gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a clean sweep and predicted a downslide for the ruling Congress, leaders in the outgoing government are confident of a win.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who faced an all-round attack from the BJP and many of his old associates who switched to the saffron camp ahead of the polls in February, exuded confidence of winning the elections again.
"Based on the work done by the Congress government, we are going to form the government again," Rawat said.
The Chief Minister predicted a "minimum of 45 seats" for the Congress in the 70-member house. He also slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for "degrading the office of the PM" by his language during his poll campaigns.
"We have the blessings of the people and we are going to romp home to power again," he said confidently.
The opposition BJP, which got 31 seats against 32 for Congress in the 2012 elections, is enthusiastic about its performance.
"We will get more than 50 seats and the Congress will be routed as people are not only angry at the present Rawat government but are also looking with great hope towards the BJP for development of the state," Ajay Bhatt of the BJP said.
Voting for 69 seats was held in Uttarakhand on February 15. Voting in the Udham Singhnagar constituency was countermanded after the death of a candidate and was held March 9.
Over 65 per cent of the 75.92 lakh voters exercised their franchise in this elections. Balloting took place in 10,854 polling stations.
Both the Congress and the BJP contested for all the 70 assembly seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielded 69 candidates, Samajwadi Party 25 candidates and regional outfit Uttarakhand Kranti Dal fielded its candidates for 55 seats.
For a simple majority in the house, 36 seats are needed.
During the campaign, Prime Minister Modi urged the people of the hill state to punish the Congress, which he said, had brought disrepute to the 'devbhoomi'. The Congress, on the other hand, targeted the Prime Minister on a host of other issues, including demonetisation.
On Saturday votes will be counted on 864 tables, at 15 counting centres which will be manned by over 11,000 personnel. Heavy security arrangements have been made to ensure that after the tally is announced, there is no untoward incident between rival political parties and their supporters, an official said.
At stake is the fate of 637 candidates, of whom 62 are women and two from the third gender.