The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the poll schedule for four states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala – and the Union Territory of Puducherry to be held in March- April. Counting of all the seats will be done on on May 2.
Addressing a press conference in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan on Friday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said the Model Code of Conduct would come into force with the announcement.
Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the UT of Puducherry will see a single-phase poll on April 6. The state of Assam will go to poll in three phases – 47 seats on March 27, 39 seats on April 1, 40 seats on April 6.
The state of West Bengal will see an eight-phase poll with 30 seats going to poll on March 27, 30 seats on April 1, 31 seats on April 6, 44 seats on April 10, 45 seats on April 17, 43 seats on April 22, 36 seats on April 26 and 35 seats on April 29.
Bye-elections to Kanyakumari in TN and Malappuram in Kerala will also take place alongside the polls.
Arora said this would be his last press conference as CEC as his term comes to an end on April 13.
A total of 824 Assembly seats will be going to polls with 18.68 crore electors exercising their franchise at 2.7 lakh polling stations. The CEC said the EC had ensured all polling stations would be on the ground floor and that they would be equipped with masks and sanitisers and volunteers to assist senior citizens.
The candidate expenditure for each constituency in Puducherry was set at 22 lakhs and Rs 30.8 lakhs for the other four states.
Assam has had a 35% increase in polling stations, TN 34.73%, WB 31.65%, Kerala 89.65% and Puducherry has had a 67.63% increase in stations. “It means that much more polling and security personnel,” the CEC said. He mentioned that there will adequate deployment of Central Armed Police Forces during the polls.
The CEC began by appreciating the front-line workers fighting COVID-19. “This period of unprecedented health crisis will be remembered for the innumerable acts of selfless courage, compassion by the so-called ordinary people doing the most extraordinary acts,” he said.
“In the thick of the pandemic, ECI started test trials with elections to 18 seats to Rajya Sabha. After that, came the challenge of the Bihar elections, it was indeed a watershed moment for ECI. It proved to be a litmus test,” he added.
He mentioned that the Union Health Ministry had recognised EC personnel as front-line workers.
Assam has 126 seats in its legislative assembly, West Bengal has 294, Tamil Nadu has 234, Kerala has 140 and Puducherry has 33 seats (30 elected and 3 nominated by the Centre). The terms of the assemblies come to an end either in May or June this year. The terms of the assemblies are over on May 31 for Assam, June 1 for Kerala, May 24 for Tamil Nadu, June 8 for Puducherry and May 30 for West Bengal.
President’s Rule has been imposed in Puducherry and the assembly kept under suspended animation after the V. Narayanasamy-led Congress government resigned earlier this week ahead of a vote of confidence.
The elections will be the first major voting exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic since the Bihar polls late last year.