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Battle for 5 States from Mar 27, results on May 2

8-phase polls in Bengal; Assam 3 phases; TN, Kerala, Puducherry on April 6

With political temperature running high ahead of the Assembly polls, the Election Commission (EC) on Friday announced that voting for five Assembly polls will begin on March 27 with West Bengal going for an eight-phase elections till April 9 and Assam for a three-phase exercise till April 6. The Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held in a single phase on April 6.

The counting will be held for all five States on May 2. With the announcement of poll schedules, the model code of conduct came into effect from Friday evening. Terms of the Legislative Assemblies in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are coming to an end in May and June.

Announcing the election schedule, Chief Election Commission Sunil Arora said that nearly 18.68 crore electors will vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 seats in these Assembly elections and polling stations will be at the ground floor without any negotiation.

 “There shall be maximum 1,000 electors instead of 1,500 electors at a polling station and voting will be allowed for an extra hour, adding that arrangements would be made for candidates to file nominations online,” he said.

In Assam, elections will be held for 126 seats in three phases on March 26 (47 seats), April 1 (39 seats), April 6 (40 seats). The last date of nomination is March 9.

Announcing the schedules for West Bengal, Arora said, “For 294 seats in West Bengal, the first phase of the election has been scheduled on March 27 and it will cover 30 constituencies. The second phase of West Bengal’s Assembly elections has been scheduled for April 1 and will cover 30 constituencies, followed by the third phase on April 6 for 31 seats, the fourth on April 10 for 44 constituencies, the fifth on April 17 for 45 seats, sixth for 43 seats on April 22, seventh phase on April 26 for 36 seats and last and eighth phase on April 29 for 35 seats.”

Last time, the Assembly elections were conducted in seven phases in Bengal. A total of 68 seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 16 for the Scheduled Tribes. Term of the current West Bengal Assembly is scheduled to come to an end on May 30.

The election for the 140 seats in Kerala, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu and 30 seats Puducherry will be held in a single phase on April 6.

Taking note of the threat of intimidation and violence during the poll campaign, the EC has directed that the election security plan of poll-going States will be jointly decided by a committee comprising the chief electoral officer, State police nodal officer and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) coordinator.  According to officials, over  6,600 polling stations in West Bengal have been identified as “vulnerable” and 715 critical ahead of the Assembly elections while over 2,654 polling stations has been identified as “critical” and 338 vulnerable in Assam.

Recounting the Covid-19 guideline issued by the commission in August 2020, the CEC said polling time has been extended by an hour and door-to-door campaigning has been restricted to five people. He added that States can modify the guidelines according to their local Covid-19 situation. The CEC also said that adequate Central paramilitary forces will be deployed during the elections. All sensitive, critical and vulnerable polling stations have been identified and an adequate number of CAPFs will be deployed there.

The 2021 West Bengal Assembly election gains significance as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee faces a stiff challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has increased its footprints in the State considerably over the past five years. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been in power in West Bengal for the past 10 years, following her historic victory over the Left Front Government that had ruled Bengal for 34 years at a stretch. In the 2021 Assembly elections in West Bengal, the TMC and the BJP are being seen as the main competitors. The Congress and the Left Front have announced to contest the election as alliance partners.

Kerala is poised for a possible triangular electoral battle for the first time in the upcoming assembly election. The LDF led by the CPI-M is hoping under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to buck the trend of a ruling coalition being voted out in Kerala Assembly election. However, the Congress is banking on the very trend that Kerala votes out the incumbent coalition in every election. The BJP has invested much of its political energy in Kerala and has roped in several veterans, particularly from the Congress in the run up to the Assembly election.

In Puducherry, the fight has been between the Congress and All Indian NR Congress led by former Chief Minister N Rangasamy. Puducherry is the last Congress bastion in the South that it recently lost due to a series of resignations.

The BJP has big stakes in Assam where it is facing backlash from indigenous communities due to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu are also under much spotlight as it is the first Assembly election to be held without late Chief Ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.

The EC will appoint two special observers for West Bengal and a third can also be sent if required, Arora said in response to queries on whether enough arrangements are in place for the polls in the State, where many have been raising questions about political violence.

Saturday, 27 February 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

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