Only a few hours are left before the final counting of votes begins, and people will know which party will rule the country for the next five years. The fate of over 8,000 candidates in a total of 542 parliamentary constituencies will be revealed after the counting of votes begins sharply at 8 AM on Thursday. Initial trends will start coming in around 11 AM but a clear picture about winners and losers will be clear only by late afternoon. As per experts, the final results may be announced late evening and can be delayed even further due to a strenuous process of VVPAT counting with EVMs.
This Lok Sabha election 2019 is the first parliamentary election in which 5 VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) machines per Assembly constituency will be matched with EVMs to ensure fair counting process. In the General Elections of 2014, the EC used VVPATs for a pilot run in eight out of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, but no tallying was done. This time it will be done in exclusive and safe counting booths and the returning officer and his/her deputy will directly supervise the tallying of VVPAT slips with EVM count.
In total, polling was conducted across 10.3 lakh polling stations in all the seven phases. VVPAT matching with EVMs will be done in 20,600 stations. The entire exercise of EVM-Paper trail machine matching will take an additional four to five hours.
As per procedure, postal ballots will be counted first. Service voters stood at 18 lakh. These include diplomats and support staff posted in Indian embassies abroad, personnel of the armed forces, central police force personnel and state police personnel who are posted outside their constituencies. Out of 18 lakh registered voters, 16.49 lakh have sent their postal ballots to their respective returning officers as on May 17. The exercise of counting postal ballots manually will itself take a couple of hours at least, an EC official said.
The paper trail machines slip will be counted in the end. In case of a mismatch, the results based on paper slip count will be considered as final. However, to ensure that there is a single source of authentic data, the EC has emphasised that round-wise data must be entered into its Suvidha application. The EC officials can log into the app and feed in the data. This will be done before the round results are declared at the counting centres.
Total 67.11 per cent of the 90.99 crore electors had cast their vote in the seven-phase elections. This is the highest ever voter turnout in Indian parliamentarian elections. The Election Commission is yet to provide the number of counting centres being set up for Thursday, saying the data is not centrally available. Out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, elections were held in 542 constituencies as the EC had cancelled polls to the Vellore constituency on the grounds of excessive use of money power. The poll panel is yet to announce a fresh date for elections in Vellore.