Polling is underway for the third phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam, and the first phase for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry. Voting began at around 7 AM amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
West Bengal Assembly Elections
Voting is underway with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in 16 seats in South 24 Parganas district (part II), seven in Howrah (part I), and eight in Hooghly (part I), they said.
Over 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 205 candidates, including BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, state minister Ashima Patra, and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly.
The Election Commission has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in all the constituencies, declaring them as ‘sensitive’.
Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful voting, with 618 companies of central forces being deployed to guard 10,871 polling stations.
State police forces have also be deputed at strategic locations to aid the central forces.
The elections for the 294 assembly seats in West Bengal are being held in eight phases. The votes will be counted on May 2.
Assam Assembly Elections
The final phase of the assembly elections in Assam began at 7 am on Tuesday to decide the fate of 337 candidates, including senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, his five cabinet colleagues, and state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass.
Elections are being held amid tight security as 320 companies of security forces were deployed in the third phase, the highest among all the phases.
Altogether 79,19,641 voters — 40,11,539 men, 39,07,963 women and 139 of the third gender — are entitled to exercise their franchise in 11,401 polling stations.
A total of 45,604 polling personnel have been deployed for this phase.
A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) being considered as the third force.
The newly floated AJP is contesting in 22 seats while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of the election in which the BJP-led coalition is seeking to return to power for the second term in a row.
The fate of 20 sitting MLAs – eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the BPF, and one from the AGP — will be decided in the final phase.
Besides Himanta Biswa Sarma, other ministers who are in the fray included Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya, and Phanibhushan Choudhury.
The BJP is contesting in 20 seats while its allies the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in nine and the United Peoples Party Liberal in eight, including a friendly contest between the BJP and the UPPL in Bijni.
The Congress has put up 24 candidates and its partners – the AIUDF in 12, the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) in eight, and CPI(M) in one. The Congress and the AIUDF are engaged in friendly contests in the five constituencies of Jaleswar, Baghbar, Sarukhetri, Chenga, and Barkhetri.
Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Assembly elections:
Polling in the 234 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the 30 Assembly seats in the neighbouring Puducherry began at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Similarly, voting began for the lone Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seat where bypoll is being held simultaneously.
In Tamil Nadu, a total of 3,998 candidates are in the fray seeking the 6.26 crore `one day Sultan`s or the voter`s favour.
In order to have a good voter turnout and also enable Covid-19 patients to vote the poll body has allowed them to perform their democratic right by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits.
Voters have to compulsorily wear mask, thermal scanning will be done at the polling booths.
Arrangements for live webcast of the polling process in sensitive booths have been made.
The ruling AIADMK is fighting the poll in 179 seats and six other small parties each contesting in one seat under the former`s Two Leaves symbol.
The others in the AIADMK alliance are the BJP (contesting in 20 seats) and PMK (23), TMC (6).
In the neighbouring Puducherry, Union Territory having just over 10 lakh voters the fight for the 30-member Assembly is majorly between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) consisting of Congress (contesting in 14 seats), DMK (13), CPI, VCK (one seat each) and an Independent.
The rival National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprises of All India N.R. Congress (16 seats), BJP (9) and AIADMK (5).
Polling in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will end at 7 p.m.
Kerala Assembly Elections:
The fate of 957 candidates would be decided by an electorate of 1,41,62,025 women, 1,32,83,724 men and 290 transgender voters.
Polling is taking place according to strict Covid protocols and while in the 2016 Assembly polls, 21,498 polling booths were there, this time due to the Covid pandemic the number of polling booths has been increased to 40,771.
The poll will end at 7 p.m. and the last hour has been kept aside for Covid positive patients and for those in quarantine.
The principal political fronts contesting the elections are the ruling CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF) the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
In the outgoing Assembly (2016 polls) the LDF had 91 seats, the UDF 47 the NDA one seat and there was one independent candidate.
Across the state, people was seen queuing up before the polling time.
The poll officials at 5.30 a.m. conducted mock polling to see that all the electronic voting machines are in order.
59,292 Kerala police officials and 140 companies of CISF, CRPF and BSF officials are also deployed for duty, which is by far the biggest deployment of central forces for any poll in the state.
(With agency inputs)