The performance of the ruling TRS, along with a beleaguered Congress and the BJP would come under close scrutiny as counting of votes would be taken up in 17 Lok Sabha constituencies of Telangana on Thursday.
The Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao-led TRS had fought the April 11 elections in alliance with AIMIM.
The TRS has repeatedly claimed that it would sweep the polls, along with the party led by Asaduddin Owaisi, who is seeking re-election from Hyderabad.
Exit polls have predicted that the TRS would win the majority of seats.
It is also a major test for the Congress, which had seen 11 of its total 19 MLAs shifting loyalty to the TRS since the beginning of March.
And no less for the BJP, which won a mere one seat in the December Assembly polls, in which it forfeited deposit in more than 100 of the 119 segments.
TRS had returned to power with 88 seats.
Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar Wednesday said counting will begin at 8 AM.
Postal ballots including ETPBS (Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots) would be taken up for counting first, followed by Electronic Voting Machines ( EVM).
The polls, which saw 443 candidates in the fray, were held in a single phase in 34,603 polling stations and 18,526 polling locations.
“The counting of votes will be held in 126 counting halls located at 35 places across the State. The process of counting will start at 8 AM. At 8.20 AM, EVMs will be brought to the counting tables for counting. Each hall will have 14 tables,” Kumar told reporters.
He said for Nizamabad segment, where 185 candidates including 178 farmers jumped into the poll fray to support their demand for remunerative price for turmeric and red sorghum and setting up of a Turmeric Board, will have 36 tables in view of the large number of contestants.
Kumar said counting of VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) will be done as per the Supreme Court order which stipulated that five VVPATs should be counted for each Assembly segment.
Over 6,500 employees have been deployed for counting of votes, he said.
Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements are in place at counting centres in Telangana with the deployment of nearly 10,000 police personnel, a top police official said.
Sufficient bandobust arrangements have been made with deployment of forces comprising central forces and State police, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Jitender said Tuesday.
“Senior officers are closely monitoring and nearly 10,000 men and officers are being deployed for counting day bandobust duties under the direct supervision of Commissioners/Superintendents of Police,” he said.
This is in addition to forces already allotted for security of strong rooms.
The CEO said access to people would be restricted in counting centres and only those authorised by Returning Officer would be permitted inside with a valid pass.
No one is permitted to carry mobiles inside counting centres, he said adding prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC would be promulgated within 100 metres of the counting centres on May 23 and violators will be prosecuted.