The Election Commission will be announcing the poll dates for five states later today. The presser has begun. The states include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry where elections are due in April-May.
Polls are to be held for 294 seats in West Bengal, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala, 126 seats in Assam and 30 seats in the Union Territory of Puducherry.
After Bihar, this is the first major set of elections to be held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bengal will see the most high stakes battle with two-time Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee facing a tough challenge from the BJP amid an exodus from her Trinamool Congress to the BJP and corruption investigations against her party leaders.
The BJP is also campaigning aggressively to retain power in Assam, where it won for the first time in 2016, beating the Congress.
Here are the Live Updates of the poll dates announcement by the Election Commission:
- 2021 ushered in COVID. Amid challenges of COVID we shall find immense hope in postive stories. This period will be remembered ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We pay tribute to COVID warriors doctors staff and those on poll duty.
- Last year entire word confronted with COVID. Counties across the world tried to balance the democratic rights and some took courageous decision to go with polls.
- ECI started trial with poll for 18 RS seats during COVID. This was in June.
- 7.3 crore voters in Bihar and it was watershed for ECI. It was litmus test. Bihar electorate imposed faith on us. CEO of Bihar and DEC put in day in and out work. 57.34% polls in Bihar exceeded previous polls. Women voters 59.79% turned up in large numbers.
- Discussed with home ministry for security forces and railways for coaches for transport.
- I must compliment voters despite several odds.
- 824 seats to go for polls. 18.68 crore voters, 2.7 lakh polling stations in these states.
- Polling time has been increased by 1 hour due to COVID-19 restriction.
- During filing of nominations, only 2 people will be allowed to accompany the candidate.
- Vaccine programme may boost the poll process. Poll officials are front line workers and they will be vaccinated. Separate SOP for COVID suspects already in place.
- Door to door campaign restricted to 5 people.
- All critical polling booths identified and adequate forces will be deployed. Forces had already been sent.
Election Commission to announce poll dates for 5 states
At least two of the five poll-bound states today rushed to announce populist schemes hours ahead of the election dates being announced. Tamil Nadu and West Bengal introduced various policy changes seemingly aimed at electoral prospects. The model code of conduct, which comes into effect immediately after the Election Commission declares the poll dates, prohibits governments from making fresh welfare announcements so as to minimise any undue advantage accruing to ruling parties.
The Congress, stunned by its Puducherry loss, seeks to repeat its 2019 national election success, when it won 19 of 20 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP has so far been a minor player but its recruitment drive this time shows the party is prepping to challenge the ruling Left-led coalition in a big way. The party has roped in “Metro Man” E Sreedharan and other high profile faces in the coastal state. Close to 100 Left workers joined the BJP yesterday.
In Kerala, it’s an intense battle for the ruling Left-Led front and the Congress-led opposition coalition. The voters have alternated between the two in past state elections. The CPM hopes to continue its gains in the only state it rules after a victory in the recent local body elections.
In the last round of polls in these states in 2016, the Congress could win only Puducherry but the party this week lost power in the Union Territory adjoining Tamil Nadu after multiple resignations – a trend seen in other states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where Congress governments crashed because of defections.