Polling in 4 states, Puducherry on Tuesday; heavy security arrangements in place
Assembly election phase 3: The Election Commission has made arrangements keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic. While polling will end in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, West Bengal will hold 5 more phases.
Tuesday (April 6) is going to be a big day electorally, as all four states and the union territory of Puducherry will witnessing polling that day. While Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala have single-phased election, Assam will witness polling in third and final phase of Assembly polls.
In West Bengal, this will be third of the eight phases; the rest are scheduled on April 10, 17, 22, 26 and 29. The counting of votes in all the states and Puducherry will be held on May 2.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has made elaborate arrangements for the polling tomorrow, with a special focus on Covid-19 and security. While announcing the schedule for the election on February 26, the commission said that it has increased the number of polling booths and phases to ensure Covid-19 protocols can be followed.
Here's how various states have prepared for tomorrow's elections:
The voting in this phase will be held in 31 assembly constituencies in three districts - Hooghly (8), Howrah (7) and South 24 Parganas (16).
A total of 832 companies of central security forces have been deployed in the constituencies to ensure a peaceful election. Out of these, 214 companies of Quick Response Teams (QRTs) will be present in the third phase.
There are 205 candidates in the fray in this round of polling, with Diamond Harbour having the maximum number of candidates - 11. It is the parliamentary constituency of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
As many as 78,52,425 electors will take part in the third phase of the polls. While the Kulpi constituency has the lowest electorate count with 2,20,600, Jagatballavpur has the highest number of electorates at 2,88,099.
The BJP's Swapan Dasgupta, who is contesting from the Tarakeswar constituency in Hooghly, is among the high-profile candidates in this phase. In the Arambagh constituency, TMC has fielded Sujata Mondal Khan against CPI(M)'s Sakti Mohan Malik and BJP's Madhusudhan Bag. Sujata Mondal Khan is the wife of BJP MP Saumitra Khan.
In the 2016 elections, the TMC bagged 29 seats and the Left Front won two seats out of the 31 which will be going to polls in the third phase on Tuesday. In terms of vote share, the TMC secured 50 per cent, the Left Front had 37 per cent and the BJP got 7 per cent.
Polling for the first two phases of the West Bengal elections were held on March 27 and April 1, respectively.
Assam is all set for the third and last phase of polling on Tuesday. This phase will decide the fate of 337 candidates across 40 constituencies of 12 districts, including senior minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Hemanta Biswa Sarma, who is contesting the polls from Jalukbari constituency.
Apart from Hemanta Biswa Sarma, BJP minister Chandra Mohan Patowary from Dharampur, education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Gauhati East, and BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass from Patacharkuchi are also in the fray.
In this phase, 79,19,641 voters will exercie their franchise. Of these, 40,11,539 are males, 39,07,963 females and 139 are other genders.
As many as 320 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies have been deployed to ensure a free and fair election in the state. The State Armed Police (SAP) is also part of the security arrangements.
The BJP formed its first government in Assam after securing a thumping win in the 2016 elections. This time too, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has conducted hectic campaigning in the poll-bound constituencies. From NDA's camp, top leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Jitendra Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan have campaigned in the state.
The BJP's alliance includes the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People's Party Liberal (UPPL).
The BJP has been challenged by the 'Mahajot', an alliance which includes Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the Anchalik Gana Marcha (AGM) and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF).
In the 2016 assembly elections, Congress and AIUDF fought separately. While Congress got 30.9 per cent of the vote share, AIUDF got 13 per cent of vote share last time. The BJP, meanwhile, secured 29.5 per cent of votes and its allies AGP and BPF got 8.1 and 3.9 per cent respectively.
Gauhati West constituency with 15 candidates has the highest number of candidates in the fray. The Boko (SC) seat with three candidates has the least number of candidates. The first phase took place on March 27 with a voter turnout of nearly 77 per cent, while a voter turnout of nearly 74.76 per cent was recorded in the second phase of polling on April 1.
Kerala heads for Assembly elections on Tuesday with battlelines drawn between the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) which hopes for continuity of term, and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is being seen as a potential threat in many places.
The single-phase election will be held on Tuesday under the security of 59,292 police personnel and 140 companies of central forces. Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra said that the entire state will be divided into special security zones and police force will be deployed under the supervision of senior officers.
Drones will also be used to detect crowds and prevent obstruction of voters. Campaigning came to an end in the state on Sunday for the 957 candidates in the fray for the elections.
Congress leader and leader of the opposition in the Kerala Assembly since 2016, Ramesh Chennithala, is one of the key candidates in the election. He is contesting from the Haripad constituency for the fifth time against BJP's K Soman and CPI's R Sajilal.
In the 2016 Assembly elections Congress' Chennithala won from this seat defeating CPI's P Prasad by a margin of 18,621 votes. Under his leadership, the UDF won 19 of the 20 Lokm Sabha seats in 2019.
Kerala has a history of alternatively giving power to LDF and UDF. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan (of LDF) aims to break the trend and take oath for his second term as the head of the state. In recent months, the gold smuggling case has generated a lot of heat in the state, and given the opposition a lot of ammo against Vijayan. M Sivasankar, his former principal secretary, was arrested in connection with the case. It is being probed by various central agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate.
Vijayan is contesting polls from the Dharmadam constituency in Kannur district against UDF candidate C Raghunath and veteran BJP leader CK Padmanabhan.
In Tamil Nadu, elections for 234 assembly constituencies in 38 districts will be held in a single phase on April 6. As many as 6,28,23,749 electors will choose candidates for the sixteenth legislative assembly in the state.
The state's politics has for decades been dominated by Dravidian parties - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). In the 2016 election, AIADMK then led by Jayalalithaa, emerged victorious. After her death, Edappadi K Palaniswami became the chief minister.
These elections will decide whether Palaniswami will continue as CM or DMK leader MK Stalin will emerge as the winner in the contest for the coveted post. MK Stalin-led DMK, which is out of power since 2011 in Tamil Nadu, is in a head-to-head battle with AIADMK in nearly 130 constituencies.
Palaniswami is contesting from Edappadi seat in Salem district. The DMK fielded a debutant 37-year-old T Sampath Kumar against him. Stalin, meanwhile, is trying his luck again from Kolathur seat. He will face AIADMK's Adhi Rajaram.
Actor Kamal Haasan too has joined the fray this time. He is going to make his electoral debut from the South Coimbatore constituency - the assembly segment where his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) got more than 1 lakh votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Haasan formed the MNM in February 2018. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the MNM had a vote share of 3.72 per cent.
A total of 30 constituencies across the UT are going to polls on Tuesday, in which 324 candidates are in the fray. The polling will be held in the union territory in a single phase.
To ensure peaceful polling, 34 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have been deployed in Puducherry. Along with that, the Election Commission has also constituted 105 flying squads, 105 static surveillance teams, 26 rolling static surveillance teams, and 35 video surveillance teams.
As many as 1,558 polling stations, including 952 main and 606 auxiliary, have been set up in the union territory in 635 locations.
Of the 30 assembly seats, five are reserved for the Scheduled Caste candidates. A total of 10,04,507 electors will exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 324 candidates across 30 constituencies in Puducherry.
Elections in Puducherry, which is currently under President's Rule, is mainly between the Congress-DMK alliance and the NDA comprising All India NR Congress, AIADMK and BJP.
(With inputs from agencies)