Election results of 5 states on May 2; Bengal to see 8-phase elections
The poll bugle has been sounded as the Election Commission of India on Friday announced the election dates of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry, bringing model code of conduct into effect from Friday evening. After the Bihar elections held in November, these five state elections are a major test in front of the commission amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Assam, elections will be held in three phases on March 26, April 1, April 6. The counting of all elections will be held on May 2. The last date of nomination is March 9.
A single-phase election in Kerala will be held on April 6.
In West Bengal, the first phase of the election will be held on March 27, the second phase will be held on April 1, the 3rd phase on May 2, 4th phase on April 10. The 5th phase will be held on April 17 — the 6th phase on April 22, the 7th phase on April 26 and the 8th phase on April 29.
"We are meeting again today after the Bihar press conference. Today, it is for sharing the details of state assembly elections of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry," CEC Sunil Arora said beginning his address. "In the thick of this pandemic, ECI started the test with the election of 18 Rajya Sabha seats on June 19, 2020..." the CEC said.
"Total 824 assembly constituencies will go to the polls and 18.68 crore electors will cast vote in 2.7 lakh polling stations," the CEC said adding that all polling stations will be at the ground floor, without any negotiation.
"The roll-out of the vaccination has created a positive atmosphere regarding the election. We want to thank the health ministry for considering election commission staff as frontline workers. After all frontline workers get vaccinated, election commission staff will get inoculates at the head office," Arora said.
Recounting the Covid-19 guideline issued by the commission in August 2020, Sunil Arora 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.
Model Code of Conduct evolved with sustained deliberation with political parties since the '60s, the CEC said adding the MCC will come into force after the announcement of the polling dates.
Before the dates were declared, states rushed to announce last-minute sops. Puducherry Lt Governor announced a 2% reduction in VAT (Value Added Tax) on petrol and diesel. The West Bengal government announced a hike in the daily wage of workers under the West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme. Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palianiswami announced a gold loan scheme with low-interest rates.
Assembly elections will be held for 126 constituencies in Assam, 140 in Kerala, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal and 30 in Puducherry as the terms of their assemblies are set to come to an end in May and June. However, President's Rule has been imposed in Puducherry and the assembly kept under suspended animation after the V Narayanasamy-led Congress government failed to win the trust vote earlier this week.