File image: CEC Sunil Arora
The Election Commission (EC) on February 26 announced the Legislative Assembly election schedule for four states-Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and a Union Territory - Puducherry.
The voting will be held between March 27 and April 29. The counting for all the five assemblies will be held on May 2, the poll panel announced.
The voting will be held for 294 assembly seats of West Bengal in eight phases, for 126 seats of Assam in three phases and in a single phase for 234 seats of Tamil Nadu, 140 seats of Kerala and 30 seats of Puducherry, the election commission said.
The first phase for 30 seats of West Bengal will be held on March 27. The second phase for 30 assembly seats will be held on April 1. The third phase for 31 assembly seats will be held on April 6. The fourth phase for 44 seats will be held on April 10. The fifth phase for 45 assembly seats will be held on April 17. The sixth phase for 43 seats will be held on April 22. The seventh phase for 36 seats will be held on April 26. The eighth and the last phase of polls for 35 seats of West Bengal will be held on April 29.
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In Assam, the first phase for 45 seats will be held on March 27. The second phase for 39 constituencies on April 1 and the third and final phase for 40 seats will be held on April 6.
Polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will be held in a single phase on April 6.
The dates were announced by Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi. This would be the last election as CEC for Sunil Arora who demits office on April 30 this year.
In all, as many as 18.68 Crore electorates will cast their votes at 2.7 lakh polling states in these elections for 824 assembly constituencies across four states and the Union Territory.
This will be the first major set of polls to be held amid Coronavirus pandemic after Bihar elections held in October-November last year
Arora said Bihar election was a watershed moment and a litmus test for the poll panel. He said that the Commission will ensure elections are conducted with COVID-19-induced health protocols.
All polling officials will be vaccinated before election, Arora said. The polling time uniformly increased by 1 hour like in Bihar polls, he said.
The terms of the legislative assemblies of Assam, Kerala Tamil Nadu Assembly and West Bengal Assembly will expire between May 24 and June 1.
In the last assembly polls in these states and Union Territory in 2016, the Congress could win only in Puducherry where President's Rule has been imposed and the 30-member assembly kept under suspension the V Narayanasamy-led resigned earlier this week after losing the trust vote. The term of the suspended Puducherry assembly expires on June 8.
West Bengal is arguably the biggest election prize that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been eyeing in recent times. The state is witnessing the most high-stakes battle with two-time chief minister Mamata Banerjee facing a tough challenge from the BJP amid a series of defections from her Trinamool Congress to the saffron party and corruption investigations against her party leaders, including her nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
Also read | 10 factors that will impact West Bengal elections
The BJP has also launched an aggressive campaign in retain power in Assam, where it won for the first time in 2016, beating the Congress.
Top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda have already campaigned in the two states.
In Tamil Nadu, the opposition alliance led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is taking on the incumbent All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a senior alliance partner of the BJP. The return of expelled AIADMK leader and confidante of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, VK Sasikala had made Tamil Nadu politics interesting.
In Kerala, it's a battle for the ruling Left-Led front and the Congress-led opposition coalition. The voters have in the past alternated between the two. The CPM hopes to continue its gains in the only state it rules after a victory in the recent local body elections. The BJP has so far been a minor player in the state. The party is, however, prepping to challenge the ruling Left-led coalition. It has roped in "Metro Man" E Sreedharan, who hails from Kerala.
The announcement of the poll dates means Model Code of Conduct comes into place in the poll bound states and Union Territory.