On the busiest day of the ongoing Legislative Assembly elections, all four poll-bound states — West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu — and the Union Territory of Puducherry went to polls on April 6.
In all, voting was underway in 475 of the 824 poll-bound assembly constituencies headed for polls this season.
Polling, which began at 7.00 am, is being held in a single-phase in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. While Assam is voting in its third and final phase, West Bengal is headed for the third round in its eight-phase elections. Counting of votes in all five assembly polls will happen on May 2.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also urged voters, particularly young, to come out and vote in large numbers.
In West Bengal, where two-time Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) is locked in a high-stakes battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as many as 31 seats — 16 in South 24 Parganas (part II), seven in Howrah (part I) and eight in Hooghly (part I) are voting in the third phase.
More than 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase and decide the fate of 205 candidates. The prominent candidates whose fates would be sealed on April 6 include BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, TMC minister Ashima Patra and CPM leader Kanti Ganguly.
Officials said elaborate security arrangements were in place to guard 10,871 polling stations — all marked 'sensitive' by the Election Commission.
The TMC had won all but one seat of the 31 seats in the 2016 assembly elections. The remaining one was bagged by the Congress. Five more phases will be held in Bengal after this.
Voting was underway in all 234 assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu where the ruling AIADMK-BJP combine is contesting against the opposition DMK-Congress alliance.
MK Stalin-led DMK, which has been out of power since 2011 in the state, is in a head-to-head battle with the ruling party AIADMK led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in nearly 130 of these seats.
Tamil Nadu has traditionally seen the DMK and the AIADMK hold power alternately since 1967. The AIADMK, however, emerged victorious in the last two assembly elections — to break the pattern. This is the first election being held in the state without the two veterans and former chief ministers M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa.
Besides AIADMK and DMK, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and the alliance between TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are also in the fray in Tamil Nadu.
CM Palaniswami is contesting from Edappadi seat in Salem district against DMK’s T Sampath Kumar, DMK chief Stalin is trying his luck again from Kolathur seat against AIADMK's Adhi Rajaram in Kolathur.
Stalin's son Udhayanidhi Stalin is contesting for the first time from Chennai's Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni constituency against Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) candidate AVA Kasali. Among others, Kamal Haasan will be making his electoral debut from Coimbatore (South).
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Like Tamil Nadu, Kerala is also voting in a single phase for all its 140 seats. Three alliances, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), are pitted against each other in the state.
The LDF consists of CPI(M), CPI, Kerala Congress (M) and other smaller parties, whereas the UDF comprises the Congress, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Kerala Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party and other smaller parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bharath Dharma Jana Sena are the main constituents of the NDA.
As many as 2.74 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 957 candidates including high-profile leaders and independents.
Since the 1980s, the LDF and UDF have alternatively formed the government with neither able to get back-to-back victories in Kerala.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, health minister KK Shailaja, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, power minister MM Mani and higher education minister KK Jaleel are among the prominent candidates from Kerala who are in fray.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former chief minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders K Muraleedharan, PT Thomas and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan are among prominent leaders from the Opposition.
BJP's poster boy, 'Metro Man' E Sreedharan is contesting from Palakkad seat against Congress MLA Shafi Parambil, who is seeking a third term as an MLA.
As many as 40 seats of Assam are voting in the third and last phase of polls today. The seats are spread across 16 election districts are located in Lower Assam and the Bodoland Territorial Region. In the region, the Congress has been able to maintain its tally at 11 in the last three elections.
In all, 79.19 lakh voters will exercise their franchise today with as many as 337 candidates in the fray.
Among prominent candidates, BJP’s face in north east and minister in Assam government Himanta Biswa Sarma is contesting from Jalukbari, Chandra Mohan Patowary from Dharampur, Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Gauhati East, Asom Gana Parishad’s Phanibhushan Choudhury from Bongaigaon, BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass from Patacharkuchi, among others. The fate of 20 sitting MLAs, including eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and BPF and one from AGP, will be decided in the final phase.
All 30 assembly seats of Puducherry are voting in the single-phase election today. N Rangasamy’s All India NR Congress is seeking election from 16 seats after sharing the remaining 14 seats with its allies. The BJP is contesting on nine and AIADMK on four seats.
The Congress is contesting in 14 seats and supporting an Independent in Yanam while its ally the DMK is seeking election from 13 seats. The Congress-led government in Puducherry lost the confidence vote in February in the face of its depleted strength of 11 against the opposition's 14 following the resignation of ruling dispensation MLAs.Check Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the 2021 assembly election here