Election Commission to announce polls schedule for West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Assam today
The Election Commission of India (ECI) will on Friday announce the poll schedule for West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry, where the terms of the respective legislative assemblies will end either in May or in June this year.
The schedule for the assembly elections in these five states and a Union territory will be announced at New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan at 4:30pm, the poll body said in a statement. The announcement comes a day after the commission held a meeting to finalise the election dates.
This is the second round of assembly elections which will be held during the coronavirus pandemic after the polls in Bihar in three phases through October and November last year.
Poll campaigning is in full swing across all four states and Puducherry. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks to give fierce competition to the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, which has 294 seats, with several ministers jumping the ship in recent months, it has also claimed that the atmosphere in Kerala seemed to be in its favour, where it currently has a marginal presence. It looks to up its game through its recruitment drive. The state has 140 seats. This is a crucial election for Puducherry after the Congress-led government in the Union territory collapsed earlier this week following the exit of a spate of resignations by party MLAs. The BJP, which chief minister V Narayanasamy had blamed for the fall, has not, so far, called to form the government. President’s rule has been imposed in Puducherry.
The BJP, which thumped the Congress and won for the first time in 2016, is once again looking to retain power in Assam, which has 126 assembly seats. In Tamil Nadu, which has been ruled successively by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the BJP is fighting the polls in alliance with the AIADMK. The southern state has 234 seats.
According to a senior official quoted by news agency PTI, the ECI will follow the Bihar model during the election in West Bengal. The elections body has already started inoculation of the officials involved with the polling and the entire process would get over before the election starts, he said. "Covid protocol is still applicable in West Bengal. We will stick to the protocol followed during the assembly election in Bihar," the official said, adding that candidates for the election would also have to follow the protocols.
Officials inside polling booths will be required to wear masks, face shields and gloves and use sanitiser on the premises. Once inside polling stations, voters will have their body temperatures checked, the official added. "If the person's body temperature is found high for the second time too, the voter will be asked to come back to cast vote in the final hour of the day (5pm-6pm)," the poll official told PTI.
Suspected Covid-19 patients will be allowed to cast their votes only after others finish exercising their franchise. Electors would be provided with disposable gloves for one hand, which they will use for signing and to press the button of an electronic voting machine (EVM), the official said.