Uttarakhand’s voters turned out in large numbers on February 15 when the elections in the state were held in a single phase – the state recorded a turnout of 68%. The fate of as many as 628 candidates lay in the hands of 74.2 lakh voters for 70 Assembly seats. The major players in the state are national parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, along with four state parties and as many as 261 Independent candidates.

Uttarakhand has been alternating between Congress and BJP governments since its first Assembly elections in 2002. The Congress formed the government in 2002, while the BJP won in 2007. In 2012, the two parties were in close competition, with the Congress eventually taking the lead.

Most exit polls on Thursday leaned towards a BJP victory in the state. The anti-incumbency factor may work against the Congress, which is also facing corruption charges.

A controversial term

The Congress has had a tough time of its five-year term in Uttarakhand. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna resigned in January 2014, amid allegations that his government had not carried out adequate relief work during the flash floods in the state in 2013. Bahuguna was subsequently replaced by Harish Rawat.

In March 2016, Uttarakhand was placed under President’s Rule following a rebellion in the Rawat government as nine Congress legislators joined hands with the BJP. In April, Rawat found himself in the middle of another controversy after the BJP released a tape from a so-called sting operation claiming it showed Rawat offering bribes to the rebel MLAs to support him during a floor test.

On the Supreme Court’s orders, a floor test was conducted in the Assembly in May 2016, which Harish Rawat won. After he returned as chief minister, the Congress disqualified the rebel MLAs were from the Assembly under the anti-defection law. All the disqualified MLAs, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, joined the BJP.

Exit polls

Most exit polls predicted a clear win for the BJP. Today’s Chanakya predicted a landslide 53 seats for the BJP, and only 15 seats for the Congress. Axis My India predicted 50 seats for the BJP and 17 for the Congress. However, CVoter predicted 32 seats for both parties. An average of the exit poll predictions shows 43 seats going to the BJP and 23 to the Congress, while other parties will get four seats.

The 2012 elections

The BJP and Congress were in close competition in the last Assembly elections – the Congress won 32 seats against the BJP’s 31. Both the parties were short of the required number of 35 seats. However, the Congress found support in the BSP, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and three other Independent candidates, and thus formed the government.