Ranchi: The Bharatiya Janata Party seemed to be tantalisingly close to forming the government in Jharkhand, a state that has seen nine chief ministers in the past 14 years.
"Jharkhand has given us a full majority," said a beaming BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
Initial trends showed that the BJP was coasting to victory but could end up just shy of the magic halfway mark of 41 in the 81-member assembly. It could get up to 40 seats.
"Forming government in Jharkhand is imminent...," said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar outside parliament in Delhi.
A BJP leader confidently told IANS in Ranchi that they will "comfortably form the government in Jharkhand".
The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) seemed set to improve its performance, bagging around 20 seats. It was an improvement from 18 seats that it won last time, but woefully short of the halfway mark.
The JVM was headed for victory on eight seats while the Congress was set to get four seats.
Almost all the exit polls after the five-phase election had predicted a BJP win in Jharkhand.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren contested from two seats. He was trailing in Dumka and leading in Barhait.
Former chief minister Madhu Koda, accused of corruption, was trailing, officials said.
Another former chief Minister, Babulal Marandi, was leading in Dhanwar but trailing in Giridih.
The future of 1,136 candidates, including 111 women, was locked in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that were counted Tuesday amid tight security.
Among these 81 seats, the maximum of 29 candidates contested in Hatia where polling was held in the third phase, while a minimum of 7 candidates were in the fray from Chatra which went to polls in the first phase.
The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) led by former chief minister Babulal Marandi fielded 72 candidates.
The BJP, which is contesting the polls in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), fielded its candidates for 72 seats, AJSU for eight and the LJP for one seat.
The Congress contested 60 seats while its alliance partner RJD stood on 19 seats. The Left parties, CPI and CPI-M, fielded their candidates respectively in 24 and 13 constituencies.