India prepares to hold elections in 5 states: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, and Puducherry
On Friday, the Election Commission announced the poll dates for assembly elections in five states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, and Puducherry. The Commission said that the elections would be held from March 27 and the results would be announced on May 2. Out of the five states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry would hold its assembly elections in one round on April 6, whereas Assam would be holding it in three phases (March 27, April 1, and April 6) and Bengal in eight phases (March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29)
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that it was first major series of assembly polls to be held amid the coronavirus pandemic after the Bihar elections. As per the estimates, more than 18 crore people would be voting in these elections. In the current assembly elections, parties would be competing for 294 seats in Bengal, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala, 126 seats in Assam, and 30 seats in Puducherry.
With regard to the extensive spread of Bengal elections over 8 phases, the Election Commission exhibited slight worry over the probability of violence but defended its widespread. It said: “We had an assessment of law and order on several factors. Last time it was seven phases so eight is not a big deal.”
In Bengal, BJP is expected to confront a major showdown with ruling Trinamool Congress leader and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Bengal CM slammed the center for spreading the voting over the longest stretch of days. She said “Why is one district (24 Paraganas) voting in three rounds? Has this been done at the instance of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah? The daughter of Bengal has one thing to say. I will defeat all your conspiracies.” In the election battleground of Bengal “Khela Hobe (Game On),” Trinamool’s slogan has been roaring against the BJP’s call for “poriborton (change)”.
Besides Bengal, the Hindu nationalist party is also campaigning aggressively in Assam, where BJP won for the first time in 2016. Congress has formed a collective alliance with opposition parties to wipe BJP out of the state.
In Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK would be facing election for the first time since the death of its star leader J Jayalalithaa. The opposition party DMK-Congress, which won the 2019 elections, believed that it would continue to beat down its rival. In Kerala, both the Left-Led party and the Congress-led opposition coalition face an uncertain fate as both won alternatively in past state elections. Though CPM given its stronger hold over the state hopes to rule the state, especially after gaining victory in the recent local body elections.
The only place where BJP has more surety of success and high hopes of victory is Puducherry, which is currently under President’s Rule after the Congress government collapsed last week. Congress faced yet another wave of defections in Puducherry like it did in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, after many of party leaders resigned at the same time.