EC sounds poll bugle for 5 states
Polls in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the Union territory of Puducherry would be held over 45 days beginning April 4 and concluding on May 16. The counting of votes in all the states would be done on May 19.
The announcement was made by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi at a press conference accompanied by other Election Commissioners. With the notification of the poll schedule, the model code of conduct has come into force.
The elections are crucial as the ruling party at the Centre is not in power in any of the states going to polls and would make an attempt to come to power especially in Assam, where it has tied-up with regional power Asom Gana Parishad after over a decade. The party has projected union minister Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate. The ruling Congress would once again be led by veteran and three-term chief minister Tarun Gogoi. The is set to witness a close contest.
However, in the neighbouring West Bengal ruling Trinamool Congress led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee looks all set to retain power with her main opponent the CPM is caught in inner party conflict over alliance partners. A beleaguered state Left leadership wants to join hands with the Congress, however, Central leaders led by former general secretary Prakash Karat are opposed to the idea as Congress is their main opponent in Kerala which is also going to the polls. Though BJP president Amit Shah has spent quite some time in West Bengal trying to rev-up his party’s fortunes, it’s unlikely to emerge as a major player.
Kerala, like in past elections, would witness a close battle between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM-led LDF. Though there is no infighting within the Congress but the Oomen Chandy-led government is facing a plethora of corruption charges. On the other hand, friction within CPM leadership may dent LDF’s chances.
In Tamil Nadu, there is a straight fight between chief minister J Jayalalitha-led AIADMK and K Karunanidhi-led DMK fighting in alliance with the Congress. Whatever little chances the BJP had in the state suffered a severe jolt with the Leader of Opposition in state assembly Vijaykanth walking out of the NDA and joining hands with DMK. A victory for DMK could also see emergence of MK Stalin as the new leader of DMK as Karunanidhi has anointed him as his political successor. Puducherry is currently ruled by a former Congressman N Rangaswamy. His party is part of the NDA.
The political sensitivity of these polls can be grasped from the fact that Election Commission said that election in West Bengal will be held in 6 phases in which the polling for 1st phase will take place on 4th and 11th April. Polling for the second phase will be held on 17th April, third phase on 21st April, fourth on 25th, fifth on 30th April and sixth phase on 5th of May.
Assam will go to poll in two phases on 4th and 11th of April. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will go to poll in a single phase on 16th May. The Counting for all Assembly Constituencies in all five States will be held on 19th of May. Zaidi said, more than adequate number of Central Paramilitary Forces will be deployed at all polling locations in the states.
He said, the commission was committed to curb the use of money and muscle power in the. He said, this time in the electronic voting machines will display photos of the contesting candidates to dispel confusion, as many have similar names.
The elections will also see for the first time a symbol, which has been created by the National School of Design, allotted to NOTA (None of the above) that will be placed at the bottom of the list of candidates.
Mobile squads will have GPS-fitted vehicles and be accompanied by central forces to ensure that they quickly attend to complaints.