A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls in four states–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam – and the Union Territory of Puducherry, said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora on Friday.

The polling in these states will start from March 27 and end on April 29. The counting of votes for elections to four states and one UT will be held on May 2. As many as 18.68 crore electors will cast vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, Arora said during a press conference here.

The CEC added that the polling time has been increased by one hour and the Postal Ballot has been extended to voters above age of 80, people with disabilities and people involved in essential services. “Adequate CAPFs deployment shall be ensured during elections. All critical, vulnerable polling stations have been identified and an adequate number of CAPFs will be deployed,” CEC Sunil Arora said.

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With this, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force immediately in four states and Puducherry after the announcement of the election dates.

Here is all you need to know about the polling in these states and Puducherry:

Assam: The term of the 14th legislative assembly of Assam is up to 31 May 2021. The Assembly elections for 126 seats will be held in three phases starting from March 27. In 2016 Assembly polls were held in two phases.

A total of 2,32,44,454 electors will elect the candidates in Assam for the 15th legislative assembly of Assam.

Of the 126 seats, the number of reserved seats for SCs is eight and for STs it is 16.The number of polling booths in Assam has been increased from 24,890 to 33,530, an increase of 35.71 per cent.

Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: “In Assam, elections shall be held in three phases. The first phase of notification is March 2 and 47 seats in 12 districts will go to the polls. The last date of nomination March 9 and the date of poll is March 27. In the second phase, 39 constituencies in 13 districts will go to polls on April 1. A total of 41 constituencies in 12 districts will go to polls on April 6.”

In 2016, the BJP scripted history and formed the government for the first time in the state ending Congress’s 15-year rule. BJP and its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won a combined 86 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly. BJP bagged 60 seats, AGP 14 and BPF 12 seats. Congress, which ran the state for three straight terms under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi, could manage to win only 26 seats.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won nine of the 14 parliamentary seats while its allies the AGP and the BPF drew a blank. On the other hand, Congress bagged three seats and the AIUDF and an independent won one seat each.

Earlier in January, the Assam Congress unit had announced that five political parties including Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(Marxist), CPI(Marxist-Leninist) and Anchalik Gana Morcha would contest the state Assembly polls together to oust the Sonowal government from power.

The BJP is relying heavily on central leadership to return to power again in the state. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP chief JP Nadda visited the state and addressed the huge gatherings in different parts of the state.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is pushing the issue of insurgency in the state and has said that his government is working to make Assam a terror-free state. Five militant groups of Karbi Anglong surrendered in front of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at a function in Guwahati on February 23, ahead of the state’s assembly elections. The development comes a year after the Modi government signed the Bodo peace accord — bringing an end to the long violent movement for a separate Bodoland.

Kerala: The election for 140-member Kerala Assembly in 14 districts will be held in a single phase on April 6.

The tenure of the 14th Kerala legislative assembly will come to an end on June 1, 2021. A total of 2,67,88,268 electors will elect the candidates in Kerala for the 15th legislative assembly.

For Assembly poll 2021, the number of polling booths in Kerala has been extended from 21,498 to 40,771. The counting of votes will be held on May 2.

According to the commission, of the 140 Assembly seats, 14 seats are reserved for SC category and two are reserved for ST category candidates.

In the 2016 Kerala assembly election, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front ( LDF) bagged 91 seats in 140-member Assembly. The BJP opened its account for the first time from the Nemom constituency, where BJP veteran O.Rajagopal won the seat.

Wresting power from Congress -led United Democratic Front (UDF), led by Oommen Chandy, CPI(M) is hoping that its Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who is also the lead campaigner for the assembly polls will ensure the party’s return to power after the polls.

This time around the BJP is focusing more on the Kerala polls and managed to rope in ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan who joined the BJP yesterday at Malappuram.

Against the big development push in Kerala that the CPI(M) is projecting as a major poll plank, BJP is trying to cross swords equally riding on the development agenda set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The latest entrant to turn the tide in favour of BJP is E Sreedharan, 88 year old, who is hailed as Metro Man of India after his successful stint with DMRC, who declares that he is open to become Chief Minister of Kerala, if BJP comes to power.

“If BJP comes to power in Kerala, I am ready to become the chief minister. The party has not asked me till now as it is too premature. But if BJP asks me, I am willing to take up the post and show how a state can be run efficiently like we are running DMRC,” Sreedharan said earlier.

The Congress is betting huge on Rahul Gandhi. In the 2019 general elections, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition registered a remarkable victory with wins in 19 out of the 20 parliamentary constituencies. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is spearheading the campaign for Assembly polls 2021 is Lok Sabha MP from Waynad.

Political parties including the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and other parties had started campaigning even before the announcement of the date of the polls.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress and comprising like-minded parties is pitched against Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI-M comprising left and like-minded parties.

A faction in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a constituent in the ruling LDF has parted ways with the CPI(M)-led alliance and joined the Congress-led front.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath recently flagged off Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Vijaya Yatra from Kasaragod, Kerala in presence of state party president K Surendran.

A host of BJP national leaders will visit Kerala to partake in the Vijaya Yatra rally in various districts which includes Union Minister Gen VK Singh, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, Union Ministers including Pralhad Joshi, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani among others. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be present at the concluding session of the rally on March 7 in Thiruvananthapuram.

Among the issues which will likely to gain space in the campaign are the Kerala Gold smuggling case, the alleged backdoor appointment made by Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.

The gold smuggling case pertains to the smuggling of gold in the state through diplomatic channels. It had come to light after 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crores smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage was busted by the Customs in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5, 2020. It is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), NIA and Customs department.

The opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that maximum illegal appointments were carried out in the IT department, a portfolio handled by the Chief Minister himself. The Congress and the United Democratic Front have been attacking the state government over the protest of Public Service Commission rank holders in Thiruvananthapuram.

In the 2019 general elections, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition has registered a remarkable victory with wins in 19 out of the 20 parliamentary constituencies.

Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be done on May 2.

The term of the fifteenth legislative assembly in Tamil Nadu is ending on May 2, 2021. As many as 6,28,23,749 electors will choose candidates for the sixteenth legislative assembly in Tamil Nadu.

Ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is contesting the poll in a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). MK Stalin’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has joined hands with Congress. This time actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan’s party Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) is also in the fray.

In the last Assembly elections held in 2016, the DMK won 80, Congress won just eight, AIADMK won 134 seats, BJP won 4 seats and the rest were won by other parties and independent candidates.

The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led front, which includes the Congress, had won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu in 2019.

Ahead of the Assembly polls, the Tamil Nadu government led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had on February 20 issued an order to withdraw 308 cases registered against 26,460 people in connection with Jallikattu protests in 2017.

Hours before the announcement of state election dates,Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami today declared a gold loan waiver. Gold loans against up to six sovereigns given by cooperative banks to farmers and the poor will be waived, the state government announced.

Recently, the government increased the retirement age of state government employees to 60 years. DMK president M K Stalin took a swipe at Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami saying the announcement was made with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections in the state.

“Raising the retirement age is welcome, albeit the announcement made for the election,” the DMK leader said in a Facebook post on Thursday. He said the chief minister should have fixed the age criteria of 60 years, when he had increased the retirement age to 59 from 58 years in May last year.

West Bengal: West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning March 27.
The tenure of the 16th Legislative Assembly of West Bengal will end on May 30 this year. A total of 7,34,07,832 voters will choose their representative for the 17th Legislative Assembly of West Bengal.

Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: “West Bengal will see eight-phase elections. 30 Assembly constituencies in five districts will go to polls in the first phase on March 27. 30 Assembly constituencies in four districts will go to polls in the second phase on April 1. In the third phase, 31 constituencies in 3 districts will go to polls on April 6. 44 constituencies in five districts will go for polling on April 10.”

“In the fifth phase, 45 constituencies in six districts will witness polling on April 17. 43 constituencies in four districts in the sixth phase will go to polls on April 22. 36 constituencies in five districts in the seventh phase will go for polling on April 26. In the eighth and final phase, 35 constituencies in four districts will witness polling on April 29,” he said.

West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and BJP in the fray.

While Mamata Banerjee is seeking her third consecutive term, BJP has set a target of winning 200 seats in the 294-member state Assembly. Congress and the Left have stitched the alliance for the polls and had already finalised the seat-sharing agreement. They are also in touch with the Indian Secular Front (ISF), recently floated by influential minority leader Abbas Siddique.

In 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections, out of the 294 seats, Congress had managed to win 44 seats while the Left Front bagged 33 seats. The ruling TMC secured 211 seats and the BJP had won 3 seats.

The BJP made deep inroads in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections winning 18 seats and reducing TMC’s tally to 22. Out of the total 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal, Congress won two seats, the Left drew a blank.

After BJP’s performance in the 2019 polls, several TMC leaders have joined the party led by JP Nadda.

Puducherry: Polling for 30 assembly seats in Puducherry will be held on April 6. Of the 30 Assembly seats, five are reserved for the Scheduled Caste candidates.

As many as 10,02,589 electors will choose the candidates for the 15 legislative Assembly of Puducherry.

The Congress-led government in the Union Territory fell before completing its five-year term under the Chief Minister V Narayansamy.

Narayanasamy had resigned on February 22 ahead of a floor test in the 33-member House (including three nominated) following the resignations of five Congress and one Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) legislators. On February 23, President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the resignation of Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and his council of ministers.

Kiran Bedi was replaced as Puducherry L-G with Telangana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan being given the additional charge of the Union Territory.

In the 2016 Assembly polls, Congress had won 15 seats, All India NR Congress eight seats, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) got four seats, DMK walked away with two MLAs. BJP could not win any seats.

In the 2019 general elections, Dr Narayanasamy Kesavan of Congress won the single-seat from the Union Territory.

This year, BJP president of the Puducherry unit, V Saminathan is trying hard to woo voters with the help of the party’s central leadership.

On February 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the development of Minor Port at Puducherry under Sagarmala Scheme. He also inaugurated the Blood Centre at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, which will function as a research laboratory and a training centre for the short- term and continuous blood bank personnel training in all aspects of transfusion.

Rahul Gandhi visited Puducherry on February 17 and addressed fishermen in the neighbouring Solai Nagar in the Muthialpet assembly constituency and interacted with students of the Bharathidasan Government College for women.

Puducherry Lt Governor today announced a 2 per cent reduction in VAT (Value Added Tax) on petrol and diesel in the union territory before the announcement of dates by ECI.

For the Assembly Elections 2021, the Election Commission has issued a protocol for voting. All poll officials will be vaccinated against Covid-19 before elections for five assembly polls, the commission said.

ECI guidelines for the upcoming elections include– door-to-door campaigning to be restricted to five persons including the candidate, polling officials to be vaccinated, separate norms for suspected COVID-19 patients.

Central Armed Police Forces would be deployed and also special observers from other states would be nominated for monitoring the expenses during the assembly elections.

According to official communication accessed by ANI, a total of 45 CAPFs companies will be deployed in Tamil Nadu, 40 in Assam, 10 in Puducherry, 125 in West Bengal and 30 companies in Kerala. (ANI)