High-pitched campaign for third phase concludes

Updated on Apr 05, 2021 01:50 AM IST

Top leaders from across parties, including Union home minister Amit Shah, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee among others, made a strong pitch to woo voters on Sunday, ahead of the polling in four states and a Union territory on Tuesday.

DMK president MK Stalin holds a roadshow in the Perambur area in support of the party's Harbour Assembly seat candidate Sekar Babu, in Chennai.(ANI)
DMK president MK Stalin holds a roadshow in the Perambur area in support of the party's Harbour Assembly seat candidate Sekar Babu, in Chennai.(ANI)
By, Divya Chandrababu, , , Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati

Rallies, roadshows and public meetings on Sunday marked the conclusion of the campaign to seal the verdict in assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, with West Bengal set to vote in the third round of the polls spread over eight phases.

Top leaders from across parties, including Union home minister Amit Shah, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee among others, made a strong pitch to woo voters on Sunday, ahead of the polling in four states and a Union territory on Tuesday.

In Kerala, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi carried out a road show in Kozhikode (north Kerala) on the final day of campaigning, while Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman led the Bharatiya Janata Party rallies in the state capital.

“The UDF is well placed and we are sure we will form the next government in the state,” said Gandhi — also a member of parliament from the state — who toured extensively in the state to whip up the party’s chances. However, Sitharaman said wind was blowing in NDA’s favour. “I can see PM Modi everywhere and chorus for change is louder,” she said.

All three formations — ruling Left Democratic Front, opposition United Democratic Front and Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance — claimed clear edge in the elections, where about 2.67 crore voters will use their franchise in 40,771 polling booths across the state on Tuesday to elect 140 legislators.

In Tamil Nadu, there appears to be neither a strong wave for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam nor a heavy anti-incumbency against the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. It will once again be a bipolar contest between the Dravidian majors, said political observers. The ruling AIADMK and the opposition DMK are each contesting in more than 170 constituencies in the 234-seat Tamil Nadu assembly.

After criss-crossing the state in the last leg of the campaign, it appeared to be an all-out war between DMK president and party’s chief ministerial candidate MK Stalin and Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami who has kept the AIADMK together after J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016.

Voters on April 6 will decide if chief minister Palaniswami will retain his position or if Stalin will finally be crowned for the post he was groomed for five decades. Polling across 234 Assembly constituencies in 38 districts of Tamil Nadu will begin at 7 am on Tuesday. A total of 3,998 candidates are in the poll fray.

In Assam, both ruling BJP-led ‘mitrajot’ (alliance of friends) and opposition Congress-led ‘mahajot’ (grand alliance) fired all guns for the third and final phase of polls in Assam, campaigning for which ended on Sunday.

A total of 40 of the 126 seats in the state assembly will go to polls on April 6, which will determine who forms the next government in the state. Almost all seats in this phase are from the districts collectively known as Lower Assam.

On Sunday, Union home minister Amit Shah led the BJP campaign with a rally at Sorbhog. He could not attend two other rallies at Bhabanipur and Jalukbari because of the Maoist attack on security personnel in Chhattisgarh, and returned back to New Delhi.

“I would like to tell you, that in the first two phases of polling itself BJP has got enough seats close to forming a government. We will form a BJP majority government in Assam. And in West Bengal, we will get over 200 seats and form government,” Shah said at Sorbhog.

“Congress follows a policy of divide and rule whereas BJP under Narnedra Modi believes in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’ (with all, development of all and with trust of all). We have made Assam terrorism-free and agitation-free and in next five years we will make the state flood-free,” he added.

The Congress campaign in Assam in the third phase was led by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, but the latter had to cancel three rallies after her husband Robert Vadra tested positive for Covid-19.

“We have seen how low politics has stooped to in this election in Assam. The kind of statements made by the Prime Minister and Union home minister during their campaign goes against Assam’s history, identity and culture. They have done a negative campaign and there was nothing positive for Assam in their campaign,” said Congress in-charge for Assam Jitendra Singh.

The fate of 337 candidates, including state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, will be sealed in EVMs on April 6.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Election Commission turned down a plea of the Bodo Peoples Front (BPF) to postpone polls in the Tamulpur constituency in Assam as its candidate has joined the BJP under inducement, and said under law adjourning election at this stage is allowed only if a candidate of a recognised party dies. The poll panel said it was not provided with any documentary evidence to suggest that Basumatary joined the BJP or that he was removed from the BPF, when it heard the matter.

In West Bengal, the 31 assembly seats that go to the polls in the third phase on April 6 are likely to witness a tough battle between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) because of the demographic character of some of the constituencies and strong presence of the ruling party.

In this phase, the elections will be held in parts of rural Howrah, the Sunderban region, the Diamond Harbour and Baruipur belts in the South 24 Parganas, and parts of the Hooghly district.

The BJP’s campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who addressed several public meetings in these districts. The Trinamool Congress’s charge was led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, even as TMC MP and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee addressed a significant number of rallies.

In Puducherry, the usual din and bustle of electioneering was missing in most constituencies in Puducherry, hours before the curtains came down on poll campaign on Sunday. Puducherry and its outlying regions of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam go to Assembly polls on April 6 in single phase.

The election is a keen contest between the Congress led Secular Democratic alliance and the All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) led NDA.

The AINRC is seeking election from 16 seats after sharing the remaining 14 seats with BJP (nine) and AIADMK (four).

Similarly, the Congress is contesting in 14 seats and supporting an Independent in Yanam while its allies the DMK is seeking election from 13 seats.

(With agency inputs)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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