Vote count in Maharashtra begins
The election for the 288-member House, which saw a five- way fight between NCP, Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS of Raj Thackeray, is being seen as the first major popularity test of Modi, who assumed office around five months ago.
This may be the most eagerly-awaited poll result in the history of Maharashtra, where the two main alliances crumbled ahead of the election, adding a tinge of uncertainty in a state known till now for its largely bipolar polity.
Modi was the star campaigner for BJP, which is vying for power on its steam in the state for the first time in 25 years. All these years, the party had played second fiddle to Shiv Sena, which led the saffron alliance that came apart late last month over disagreement on sharing Assembly seats.
The vote count for October 15 balloting, which started at 8 AM at 269 locations across the state, will decide the electoral fate of several political bigwigs, including former Chief Ministers Prithviraj Chavan, Narayan Rane (both Congress), ex-Ministers Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal (both NCP), Devendra Fadnavis, Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde (BJP).
Trends are expected to be available around noon and final results three hours later, election officials said.
Over 35,000 election staff are on duty.
A healthy 63.13 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the state, which saw a multi-cornered fight after decades.
Counting is also being held for votes cast in the bypoll to Beed Lok Sabha constituency in Marathwada region.
A total of 4,119 candidates, including 276 women, are in the poll ring. While Nanded South has the maximum 39 candidates, Akole and Guhagar have the minimum five each.
Congress has fielded candidates in 287 seats followed by Shiv Sena (282), BJP (280), NCP (278), BSP (260), MNS (219) and CPI-M (34).
Registered parties, other than recognised state and national outfits, fielded 761 candidates. There are 1,699 Independents in the fray.
The Election Commission has deputed 135 general observers, 112 expenditure, five police and 18 awareness observers, the officials said.