Updated: February 27, 2021 7:04:39 am
The Election Commission announced Friday the poll schedule for four states and one Union Territory, in which West Bengal will vote in eight phases, Assam in three, and Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry together on the same day.
Voting will be spread over a month between March 27 and April 29, and the results for all five Assemblies will be announced on May 2, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora told reporters.
These are the last set of elections that Arora will oversee as CEC before his retirement on April 13. By then, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry would have finished voting, and West Bengal would be halfway through its polling. After this, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra will take over the reins and oversee the last four phases in West Bengal.
The first phase of polling for 30 seats in West Bengal is scheduled on March 27. The second phase (30 seats) will be held on April 1, the third (31 seats) on April 6, fourth (44 seats) on April 10, fifth (45 seats) on April 17, sixth (43 seats) on April 22, seventh (36 seats) on April 26 and the final phase for remaining seats on April 29.
Voting in Assam will be spread over three phases, on March 27, April 1 and April 6, respectively. Polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will be held in a single phase on April 6.
The four states and the UT of Puducherry are the first set of Assemblies to poll amidst the pandemic after the Bihar elections in October last year. Calling Bihar a watershed moment for the Commission, Arora said that the EC would follow the same template for the upcoming elections and ensure that the polling personnel are vaccinated before assuming their election duties.
“The rollout of the vaccination has created a positive atmosphere regarding the election. We want to thank the Health ministry for considering Election Commission staff as frontline workers. After all frontline workers get vaccinated, Election Commission staff will get inoculated at the head office,” Arora said.
Like Bihar, the EC has increased the number of polling stations in each of the four states and UT to limit voters’ maximum number in each polling station to 1,000. In the pre-Covid era, up to 1,500 voters could vote at a polling station. For instance, the number of polling stations in West Bengal have been increased by close to 32% and in Assam by 35%. Voting time, like in Bihar, has also been increased for the upcoming elections by one hour.
Of these five assemblies, Puducherry was the only one that the Congress could win last time. Currently, President’s Rule has been imposed there and the Assembly kept under suspended animation after the collapse of the V Narayanasamy-led Congress government.
West Bengal will be keenly watched this election as the BJP, which increased its vote share and seat tally in the state during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, campaigns aggressively to try and wrest power from Trinamool Congress.
In Tamil Nadu, keen to oust the ruling AIADMK in the forthcoming elections, the DMK has started distributing application forms, seeking aspirants wishing to contest the polls on the party’s symbol – the ‘rising sun’. The process of handing out application forms has been underway since February 17.
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