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Arrangements in full swing for counting

By M. Malleswara Rao

HYDERABAD, MAY 9. The countdown for the eagerly-awaited counting of votes for 294 Assembly seats slated for Tuesday began this evening when more than 10,000 personnel drafted for the massive exercise were asked to move to counting centres.

All of them will be ready by 7 a.m. on the day at their designated centres, shifting Electronic Voting Machines from strong rooms.

Though 8 a.m. is the time set for counting, it may be delayed by half an hour as personnel are likely to require a little time before going about the job through the new means -- EVM. The Chief Electoral Officer, M. Narayana Rao, said the results in full form might be out between 12 pm and 2 pm that day, deciding the fate of 1,896 candidates in the fray, unfolding a new political scenario.

The Election Commission is expected to notify the names of elected candidates by a gazette on May 12 or 13 to the Legislature Secretary after the final list in Form 21-E is made available by Tuesday evening. This will ensure that the new Assembly will be constituted before expiry of the six-month Constitutional deadline. The last Assembly was dissolved on November 14.

The counting this time will be a new experience with the designated officials decodifying the "control unit" part of the EVM and noting down the votes cast against each candidate for each round and adding them at the end of the 14th round.

Mr. Rao hopes that each round would not take more than 20-30 minutes though there might be initial hiccups for the first one. He said foolproof arrangements had been made for the exercise with the deployment of armed police around 300 counting halls in 42 towns and cities across the State.

Orders have been issued against the use of cell phones and carrying of arms inside and outside the halls and against taking out rallies elsewhere.

Liquor and toddy shops are being closed on both counting days.

The CEO held a mock counting of the votes at the Secretariat this evening. K. Adinarayana, an election officer, had to break eight seals before pressing the button for seeing the 563 votes "cast" on the display board against the imaginary five contestants.

Citing past experience, he ruled out failure of any machine and said, "At most, one or two display-boards may give trouble."

But this will be rectified by an auxiliary display-board. ECIL engineers will be available on the spot.

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