Kolkata, May 22 : Bringing the climax to the high-voltage Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal - which has virtually become the ground zero of the current elections following the BJP's mega push to become a big player in the state - the authorities will on Thursday count the votes for the state's 42 seats, that could make a big impact in deciding the national outcome.
The interest is centred around the extent up to which the BJP can make inroads in the state where it has been a fringe player all these years and whether the Mamata Banerjee- led ruling Trinamool Congress manages to hold its fort in the face of the sustained assault by the saffron brigade through the election campaign.
With the various exit polls predicting anything between five and 23 seats for the BJP, the saffron camp is all keyed up, while the Trinamool has been utterly dismissive of the projections, with Banerjee dubbing them "gossip" and a "game plan to manipulate and replace thousands of EVMs".
The Trinamool has swept the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, winning 34 seats, followed by the Congress with four. The BJP and the CPI-M had bagged two seats each.
Gearing up for the vote count, the Election Commission has earmarked 58 centres across the state, where 25,000 counting personnel have been deployed for deciphering the mandate that now lies sealed in the EVMs from 78,799 polling stations across 294 assembly segments.
The counting on the morrow would kick off at 8 a.m. with the postal ballots, following which the EVMs would be opened. Once the counting of votes polled in the EVMs was over, five random VVPATs of each assembly segment will be tallied with the voting machines in the presence of the counting observers.
According to an official, the counting of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), the counting of postal ballots, votes in the EVMs and the scanning of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots System (ETPBS), will make the process lengthy.
"Our aim is to complete the entire counting accurately and seamlessly. Counting of five polling stations of every assembly segment will be done at one table. So the final result is expected by Friday," Additional Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal, Sanjay Basu said.
Also, the counting for the by-polls to Islampur, Habibpur (ST), Kandi, Nowda, Darjeeling and Bhatpara assembly constituencies will be taken up.
Two Parliamentary Constituencies - Kolkata North and Jhargram - will have maximum of 25 rounds of counting.
At the other end, Jalpaiguri, Raiganj and Balurghat seats will have only 10 rounds of counting.
As many as 200 companies of central armed paramilitary forces (CAPFs) have been retained by the Commission in addition to the 82 CAPF companies deployed for guarding the strong rooms and counting centres.
All the counting centres have a 3-tier security system and the strong rooms are being guarded by the CAPF.
The seven-phase voting for 42 constituencies began on April 11 and ended on May 19.