Amid raging pandemic, counting of votes to decide leadership in Puducherry and 4 states
Votes for 822 assembly seats spread across four states and the Union territory of Puducherry will be counted on Sunday, May 2, amid the raging Covid-19 wave across India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in direct contest with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and with the Congress-led alliance in Assam. Apart from Assam, the Congress is trying to stake a claim of power from the Left Front government in Kerala. In Tamil, the fight is between the two Dravidian parties, the ruling AIADMK and DMK. While the BJP is an ally of the AIADMK, the Congress is a minor player in the DMK-led alliance.
The exit polls on April 29 predicted a close contest between the BJP and the TMC in West Bengal, a clear edge for the BJP in Assam, for the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Left Front in Kerala. In Puducherry, NR Congress, contesting in alliance with BJP and the AIADMK, was a clear leader in the exit polls.
Of the 294 seats in West Bengal, votes would be counted for 292 seats and election in two seats in the Murshidabad district have been countermanded because of the death of the candidates. Both TMC and BJP expressed confidence in winning with a handsome margin. The Sanjukta Morcha or joint alliance of Congress, Left parties and cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s newly-launched Indian Secular Front (ISF), is also in the fray, though exit polls predicted a below-par performance for the alliance.
“We will meet our expectations,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said on Saturday but did not repeat the “more than 200 seats” claim his party made. Saugata Roy of TMC said that the election win for his party was a foregone conclusion. “The way BJP workers are demoralised, shows they have lost the battle even before counting of votes,” he said.
The Bengal elections were a manifestation of two narratives. While the BJP primarily projected Banerjee as an “appeaser” — a code for what the party alleges is the TMC government’s pro-Muslim tilt - the chief minister labelled the BJP’s national leaders from the Hindi belt as “bahiragato” (outsider) to Bengal’s culture and spirit.
In Tamil Nadu, counting for 234 assembly seats will be conducted across 75 counting centres, in which the fate of 4,218 candidates will be decided. It’s the first election without stalwart leaders such as J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi who passed away in 2016 and 2018 respectively. In a bipolar contest, the AIADMK and the DMK are contesting more than 170 seats each on their own. About 72.78% of voters in the state turned up on the single-phase election on April 6 to decide if Edapaddi Palaniswami gets to retain the chief minister’s chair or if DMK’s MK Stalin should be given a chance.
Several other parties are in the running and chief minister aspirants include actor Kamal Haasan whose three-year-old Makkal Needhi Maiam makes its debut in the assembly election. The AMMK, which is AIADMK’s rebel faction, led by VK Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, is also in the fray with Tamil nationalist S Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi with a rural support base looking to make a mark.
In Kerala, the fate of 957 candidates contesting for 140 assembly seats will be decided on Sunday. Most of the pre-poll and exit poll surveys have predicted a clear edge to the ruling of the Left Democratic Front by bucking the 40-year old trend of change in government after every five years. The Congress-led United Democratic Front expressed confidence that the state will stick to its tradition and elevate it to power.
“We are sure about our continuation. Our track record is our strength. People are with us,” said upbeat chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. But opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said he won’t believe in surveys and predictions and people are waiting to dump the most “corrupt and inefficient government” the state has seen. Elections were held in a single phase on April 6.
For the 126-member Assam assembly, the BJP-led alliance was ahead of the Congress-led opposition grand alliance in most of the exit polls even though the Congress rejected the exit polls saying they were forming the next government.
“We would win close to 100 seats,” said BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma. Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi, however, said the alliance was coming back to power. “The exit polls are not telling the reality. We will win,” he said.