After trailing initially, BJP's Samadhan Autade took lead over his NCP rival in the counting being held on Sunday for the bypoll to Pandharpur-Mangalvedha Assembly seat in Maharashtra's Solapur district.
"At the end of the ninth round of counting, NCP candidate Bhagirath Bhalke bagged 24,027 votes, while BJP's Autade polled 26,255 votes, taking a lead of 2,228 votes," a district election official said.
The NCP and the BJP are locked in a direct fight in the bypoll, which was necessitated following the death of NCP legislator Bharat Bhalke due to post-COVID-19 complications in November last year.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) fielded Bhagirath Bhalke, the late MLA's son, against BJP's Samadhan Autade, who had contested the 2019 Assembly elections as an Independent and the 2014 polls on the Shiv Sena ticket.
Political observers feel the bypoll will test the popularity of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies - Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress - three ideologically different parties which have been sharing power in the state for the last one-and-a-half years.
Over 66 per cent voting was recorded during polling held in the constituency on April 17, as per the Election Commission.
Political observers feel the bypoll will test the popularity of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies - Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress - three ideologically different parties which have been sharing power in the state for the last one-and-a-half years.
Solapur Collector Milind Shambharkar said all COVID-19 prevention protocols and guidelines were being followed during the counting process.
"The counting staff has been provided sanitisers, masks and gloves. Social distancing is being maintained and only candidates and their polling agents are allowed inside the counting centre," he said.
Section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people at one place, has already been imposed and no victory celebration is allowed outside the counting centre, the collector said.
Adequate police security has been deployed outside the counting centre, he added