The Election Commission Friday threw open the biggest political arena of 2016 by announcing that Assembly polls in five states — Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry— will be held between April 4 and May 16 with counting of votes on May 19.
Assam will go to polls in two phases on April 4 and 11 while elections in West Bengal will be held in six phases, on April 4 and 11 (under Phase-I), 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5. The two-stage first phase in West Bengal covers Left-Wing Extremism-affected areas.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, with 126, 140, and 234 constituencies respectively, will vote on the same day in a single phase election on May 16, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said at the ECI headquarters Friday.
West Bengal has 294 seats while Puducherry has 30.
A total of 824 Assembly constituencies will be covered with the participation of over 16.98 crore registered voters over a month while the results for all will be announced on May 19.
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All the five are non-BJP-ruled states with regional parties incumbent in three of them. Two, Assam and Kerala, have the Congress in power. The elections are also viewed as a test for the BJP to make a mark in the unfamiliar territories after the recent drubbing in Bihar.
With this announcement, the Model Code of Conduct also comes into effect immediately.
West Bengal will also witness the inclusion of new voters in the border regions of the northern part who have become Indian citizens following the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh.
“The last phase of West Bengal elections has been kept for the Cooch Behar district where 16,000 people have become Indian citizens after the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh and are eligible to vote. They will be included in the electoral rolls for the first time,” Zaidi said.
It has been kept for the last phase because all the related exercises, such as delimitation, preparation of voters’ lists, distribution of electoral cards, etc., will have concluded by then.
India got 51 enclaves from Bangladesh on July 31, last year in exchange of 111 enclaves. Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda tweeted in the morning that the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill would come into effect from March 4. The bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament last week without debate. This allows the ECI to enrol the new citizens as voters.
For first time, the ECI has approved a special symbol for None of The Above or NOTA option designed by the National Institute of Design, which is being incorporated in the Electronic Voting Machines.
While not disclosing the details of security deployment for free and fair conduct of the elections, Zaidi confirmed that the deployment will be more than last time.
“All booths will have seven basic facilities and there will also be all-women polling booths. Mobile squads will have GPS-fitted vehicles and be accompanied by central forces to ensure that they quickly attend to complaints,” he said.
The job of conducting the elections in these states has become a bigger exercise since 2011 as the states have seen a marked increase in the number of polling stations.
Assam has 24,888 polling stations, an increase of 4.5 per cent, West Bengal has 77,247 polling booths— up by a whopping 48.7 per cent, Kerala has 21,498, up by 3.5 per cent, Tamil Nadu has 65,616— a 21.5 per cent increase while in Puducherry, the increase has been by 12 per cent to 913 polling stations.
The number of voters have also seen a marked increase: Assam now has 1,98,66,496 voters; West Bengal 6,55,46,101; Kerala 2,56,08,720; Tamil Nadu 5,79,15,075; while Puducherry has 9,27,034 voters.
The dates are as below:
Assam poll dates
1st phase – 65 constituencies
Date of polling – April 4
2nd phase – 61 constituencies
Date of polling – April 11
West Bengal poll dates
1st phase – 18 constituencies
Polling days – April 4, 11
2nd phase – 56 constituencies
Polling day – April 17
3rd phase – 62 constituencies
Polling day – April 21
4th phase – 49 constituencies
Polling day – April 25
5th phase – 53 constituencies
Polling day – April 30
6th phase – 25 constituencies
Polling day – May 5
Kerala – 1 phase (140 constituencies)
Polling day – May 16
Tamil Nadu – 1 phase (234 constituencies)
Polling day – May 16
Puducherry – 1 phase (30 constituencies)
Polling day – May 16
Counting day – May 19