The Congress and the Shiromani Akal Dal(SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) alliance were neck and neck during the early trends of the vote count in Punjab. The counting for the 117-seat Punjab Assembly began at 8 am on Tuesday.
The early trends were somewhat similar to the post-poll survey that projected a close contest between the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance.
Congress is contesting all 117 seats, while SAD 94 and BJP 23. In the last election SAD had won 50 seats, Congress 42, BJP 19 and independents 06.
The fate of 1,078 candidates, including 93 women and 417 independents, will be decided on Tuesday. Voting was held in the state January 30.
There are 52 counting centres across the state.
Nearly 78% of the 17.6 million voters in the state exercised their franchise Jan 30. The voting percentage was an all-time record in assembly polls in the state.
The ruling SAD-BJP alliance has been battling allegations of corruption, farmers' issues and unemployment. A third front, Sanjha Morcha, which was formed recently and is led by former finance minister Manpreet Badal's People's Party of Punjab (PPP), added a new dimension to the state's politics.
Ahead of the counting, both the Congress and the SAD said they were confident of a victory. On one hand Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh said the 'non-governance and corruption of the ruling state government' have favoured them.
On the other hand, Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal believes they will retain power and Parkash Singh Badal will retain the post of the state's Chief Minister. It is also possibly the last electoral fight for Parkash Singh Badal, who is one of india's oldest politicians.
Parkash Singh Badal faces his toughest political test as he was pitted against his own younger brother, Gurdas Badal, 81, of PPP and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal of Congress in a bitter triangular contest for Lambi seat in southwest Punjab.
According to the CNN-IBN-The Week post-poll survey, the SAD-BJP combine is likely to get the largest chunk of votes at 41 per cent, while the Congress will be a close second with 40 per cent votes. How this vote share will be translated into votes is the big question. What is also interesting is that no ruling party has ever been voted back to power in Punjab. In the final tally, the SAD-BJP combine is likely to get between 51 and 63 seats, out of the total 117 seats. The Congress is likely tp get 48 to 60 seats, whereas the Others will account for 3 to 9 seats.
(With additional information from agencies)