All arrangements are in place for counting of votes on Sunday as per COVID-19 guidelines for the Assembly polls held on April 6 in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Puducherry as political parties anxiously await the results.
In Tamil Nadu, though there were four fronts, including actor-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam-led combine, the key contest is between the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK, which exit polls have predicted would wrest the reins of power after a 10-year hiatus.
Counting is set to start at 8 AM in 75 counting centres across the state and all arrangements are in place to smoothly conduct the exercise, which would be monitored by observers, authorities said.
Chennai has three counting centres, Loyola College, Queen Mary's College and Anna University.
Directions, including RT-PCR tests and two doses of vaccination for candidates and agents to enter counting halls, would be followed strictly, they said.
Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo participated in a virtual meet chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, who reviewed the counting arrangments in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Cumulatively, there would be 3,372 EVM tables and depending on the constituency and votes polled, the counting exercise is estimated to be completed after anywhere between 13 and 43 rounds in each of the 234 Assembly segments.
Separately, there would be tables to count postal ballots and in total, it shall be 4,000 plus tables.
Over 16,000 personnel have been deployed to perform the counting exercise.
Postal ballots would be taken up first and EVM votes half-an hour later.
The counting centres, with CCTV surveillance, have been brought under a three-tier security cover with personnel from Central Armed Police Forces and the state police guarding the strong rooms.
The arrangement is set to continue till the completion of the process.
In total, over a lakh police personnel have been deployed across the state for the counting exercise and authorities said that as per guidelines, no 'victory procession' or congregations by parties would be allowed.
There are nearly 4,000 (3,998) candidates in the fray, including top AIADMK leaders, Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, DMK president M K Stalin and his son and party youth wing secretary, Udhayanidhi Stalin, who is seeking to enter the Assembly for the first time.
AIADMK's rival and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) chief T T V Dhinakaran, MNM's Haasan, BJP state unit chief L Murugan and the saffron party's Khushbu Sundar are among the prominent candidates. AMMK-DMDK combine and Nam Thamizhar Katchi are also in the fray.
Polls were held to 234 constituencies in Tamil Nadu and by-election was also held to the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat, where Congress party's Vijay Vasanth and BJP leader and former union minister, Pon Radhakrishnan are the key candidates.
In the union territory of Puducherry, the former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy-led All India NR Congress-BJP-AIADMK alliance and Congress-DMK combine are the key contenders for power.
Exit polls have predicted a win for the front led by Rangaswamy.As many as 1,382 personnel would be deployed for counting of votes in the UT, while about 400 police personnel shall be on security duties.