Courtesy: Hindustan Times

After a resounding Lok Sabha Win, exit polls predict a clean sweep for the Congress in state elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh.

The ruling Congress and its allies have an edge in two of the three states that polled to elect their respective assemblies on Tuesday, said exit polls and projections. The polls forecast a near sweep for the Congress in Haryana, but said the Congress Nationalist Congress Party alliance in Maharashtra could fall a few seats short of a simple majority of 145 in the 288member house. No forecast was available for Arunachal Pradesh.

All three states — all ruled by the Congress currently -recorded high rates of polling, with Arunachal topping at 72 per cent. Haryana polled 66 percent and Maharashtra 60 per cent. Mumbai polled 45 per cent. The Election Commission described the voting as “satisfactory”. “The polling in Naxal-affected districts (of Maharashtra) was higher than the state average,” said Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. The counting of votes will take place on October 22.

Following the exit poll results, the mood in the Congress was upbeat as polling closed. Both the CNN-IBN projection and the Star News poll showed a range that at the least had the Congress-NCP alliance as the single largest entity. No forecast was available for 60-seat Arunachal. But the Congress looked comfortable with three of its MLAs already declared elected unopposed.

In Mumbai, however, the turnout was low at 45 per cent — just two per cent more than the figure posted during the Lok Sabha elections. According to projections by CNN-IBN television news channel, of the 288 seats in the assembly, the Congress is likely to bag 75-85, NCP 55-66, Shiv Sena 55-65, BJP 45-55, MNS 812 and others 25 to 35.

In Gadchiroli, more than 60 per cent voters turned out to exercise their franchise despite threats from Naxalites. The turnout in the 2004 assembly polls was 67 per cent. Last week, as the extremists killed 17 policemen, over 50 companies of Central paramilitary forces were deployed in the district. But the Maoists still struck at several places. The authorities got four air force helicopters — including two Mi-17s — that rescued policemen at several places in the district on the polling day.

In Khamtala near the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, at least 300 rebels surrounded polling officials and security personnel. Gunbattle between the police and the Naxalites went on till late evening. Three helicopters with 70 paramilitary forces were sent to rescue the personnel.

The possibilities of Naxal attacks prevented the district administration from sending poll parties to 22 inaccessible polling centers. District Collector Atul Patne said, “Now we will be able to send polling parties in those areas on October 15…”.

Voting in the six districts of western Maharashtra, about 60 per cent of voters cast their ballots, according to official estimates. Voters in the 58 assembly constituencies spread across Pune, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and Solpaur districts will decide the fate of several heavyweights from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine.

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