As counting of votes polled in 38 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu gets underway at 8 AM on Thursday, all eyes will also be on the results of the by-polls to 22 Assembly seats, since the outcome will decide whether the K Palaniswami government is here to stay or not.
While exit polls have forecast a second saffron surge in the country in five years, mainly in the Hindi heartland that will enable a successive term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have predicted a good show by Congress-ally DMK in the state.
The exit polls have painted a bleak picture for the AIADMK, even as the ruling party keeps a nervous eye on the by-polls to know its fate.
However, both AIADMK and DMK have dismissed the exit polls.
While by-polls to 18 of the total 22 vacant assembly seats were held on April 18, the rest went to the hustings on May 21.
AIADMK would require a significant number of seats to remain in power even as rival leader, AMMK founder TTV Dhinakaran, has threatened to play spoilsport to Palaniswami’s chances to continue in power.
The AIADMK has a strength of 113 minus the Speaker in the 234 member house with 22 vacancies. The simple majority in the full house is 117.
DMK is banking on the byelections to have a shot at capturing power in the state. The party, along with its allies, including Congress, has 97 MLAs against AIADMK’s 114 in the 234-member assembly with 22 vacancies.
DMK demitted office in 2011, when the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa stormed to power with a massive victory, reducing the opposition party to double-digit figures in the state assembly.
She also led her party to a successive term in 2016, a feat repeated by an incumbent after three decades.
On Thursday, results will also be out for 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state, with the election to Vellore being cancelled following the recovery of a huge amount of cash.
Over 800 candidates are testing their fortunes from the 38 Lok Sabha seats and another 406 from the by-polls.
Meanwhile, the EC said all arrangements were in place for counting.
Counting of votes will be done in 45 centres across the state, with over 17,000 polling staff and 45,000 police personnel deployed on Thursday.
The security personnel comprises 1,520 from Central Armed Paramilitary Forces and 36,000 state police and the rest from Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP), Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo said.
He said 88 counting observers have been deployed for the state.
“The counting process will be videographed continuously, from the opening of the strong room,” where the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are stored, he said.