Counting of votes for Haryana assembly election will take place on Thursday with the BJP looking to retain power, its hopes buoyed by exit polls that indicate an easy victory.

A counting centre has been set up in each of the 90 assembly constituencies and there is an additional centre in Gurgaon’s Badshahpur segment, which had a larger number of polling booths.

The counting of votes will begin at 8 am, Haryana’s joint chief electoral officer Inder Jeet told PTI on Wednesday.

The electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the VVPAT paper trail machines used in Monday’s polling are kept at 90 strongrooms set up at 59 different locations, he said.

Personnel from the state police and paramilitary forces are guarding the strongrooms round the clock, he added.

Inder Jeet said a three-tier security system is in place.

Central police forces personnel are deployed near the strongrooms in the first layer, Haryana Armed Police personnel are posted in the second layer and district police personnel man the outer layer.

While most exit polls projected a comfortable victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party, one predicted a close fight between the BJP and Congress with the Jannayak Janta Party likely to play kingmaker.

The JJP came into existence after a split last year in the Indian National Lok Dal. Most exit polls predict that the INLD, founded by former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, will be decimated.

Haryana on Monday recorded a voter turnout of over 68 per cent, a sharp decline from 76.54 in the 2014 assembly polls. Of the total voters, 69.36 percent were men and 67.12 per cent women.

In 2014, the BJP won 47 seats and the Congress 15, with two Haryana Janhit Congress legislators later merging with it. The INLD had 19 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal one each. There were five independents.

Later, two INLD legislators died and barring Abhay Singh Chautala, most other INLD MLAs and prominent leaders switched to the BJP, Congress or JJP.

The BJP won the Jind bypoll this year, taking its strength to 48 in the 90-member House.

Altogether, 1,169 candidates, including 105 women, entered the fray this time.

Prominent among those whose fate will be known on Thursday include Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, former Congress CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, JJP leader Dushyant Chautala and INLD’s Abhay Singh Chautala.

Haryana ministers Ram Bilas Sharma, Anil Vij, Capt Abhimanyu, O P Dhankar and Kavita Jain also contested for the BJP.

Apart from Hooda, other Congress bigwigs in the contest include Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kiran Choudhary, Ranbir Mahendra and Kuldeep Bishnoi.

The BJP also fielded TikTok star Sonali Phogat and three sportspersons — Babita Phogat, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sandeep Singh.

Led by Khattar, the BJP had set a target of winning 75 seats in the state, where the Congress is struggling to make a comeback.

The Aam Aadmi Party, the Loktantra Suraksha Party and Swaraj India also contested the elections, though none of them fought all 90 seats.

The BJP had made the nullification of Article 370 and nationalism major poll issues. It also told voters that the Khattar government had provided a clean and transparent administration.

The Congress and other opposition parties targeted the BJP government over unemployment, law and order and the condition of farmers.