The big count begins



Counting of some 550 million votes polled in India’s general election began Friday morning.

Counting began at 989 centres across the country at 8 a.m.

Around 66 percent of the 814 million electorate voted between April 7 and May 12 across the country to elect a new 543-member Lok Sabha.

Exit polls at the end of the staggered polls have predicted a win for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

A total of 8,251 candidates, including 668 women and five transgenders, contested the battle for the 16th Lok Sabha. The contestants included 3,234 independents.

Friday’s results will determine the political fortunes of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (Vadodara, Varanasi), Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav (Mainpuri, Azamgarh), Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav (Madhepura), BJP leaders Arun Jaitley (Amritsar), Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal (Varanasi).