Over 20 crore people from Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will vote in a mammoth electoral exercise today. For the latter three this is the first and only phase of polling. It is Assam’s third and final, while Bengal has five more.
Here are the top 10 points in this big story:
31 seats will go to the polls in Bengal in this phase. The Trinamool will contest all 31, as will the BJP. The Congress, which has allied with the Left, will contest seven and the CPM 13, with the rest going to smaller allies like the ISF, AIFB and RSP. In 2016 the Trinamool won 29 of these seats and pocketed over 50 per cent of the votes.
The big names on the ballot in Bengal today include columnist Swapan Dasgupta, who contests from Tarakeshwar on a BJP ticket. Other big names from the BJP include actor and model Tanushree Chakraborty, who contests from Shyampur. Veteran CPM leader Kanti Ganguly will contest from Raigidhi, and the Trinamool’s Ashima Patra – the Minister for Technical Education – will contest from Dhanekhali.
All 234 seats in Tamil Nadu – where the AIADMK and DMK traditionally reign supreme – vote in a single phase today. The ruling AIADMK will contest 191, with 23 given to the PMK and only 20 for the BJP – a sign of how little influence the party has in the state. The DMK will contest 188 and its ally, the Congress, 25, with the rest going to minor allies.
The potential surprise packages in Tamil Nadu are Kamal Haasan’s MNM – which will contest 142 seats, with 85 divided between a handful of allies – and the AMMK of TTV Dhinakaran, who is the nephew of expelled AIADMK chief Sasikala. The AMMK will contest 165 and leave 60 to the DMDK, with the rest going to smaller allies.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami will contest from Edappadi, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam from Bodinayakanur and DMK chief MK Stalin from Kolathur. AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran is on the ballot in Kovilpatti and Kamal Haasan from Coimbatore (South). The BJP’s big names include Vanathi Srinivasan – who faces Kamal in Coimbatore – and actor Khushbu Sundar.
In Assam the final phase will see 40 seats in play, with the ruling BJP targeting a second term. The Congress, at the head of an opposition alliance, will contest 24, with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF getting 12, the BPF eight and CPM one. In some seats allied parties have each put up their own candidate. The BJP will contest 20 seats, with allies AGP and UPPL contesting 13 and eight, respectively. In 2016 the BJP-AGP pair won 15 seats. The BPF, which was then an ally, won eight. The Congress won 11 and the AIUDF six.
The two biggest contestants in this phase are from the BJP – state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass and Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Health Minister and the party’s strongman in the northeast. Mr Dass will contest from Patacharkuchi in Bajali district. Mr Sarma will contest from his stronghold of Jalukbari – he is unbeaten here since 2001.
The 140 seats of neighbouring Kerala also vote in a single phase today, with the LDF government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan looking to retain power. Mr Vijayan’s CPM will contest 77 seats, with 21 going to the CPI and the rest to smaller allies, including the JDS (four) and Sharad Pawar’s NCP (three). The LDF will also support 11 Independents. The Congress, which leads the UDF, will contest 93 seats, the IUML 25 and the Kerala Congress 10. The BJP will contest 113 seats, with 21 going to the BDJS.
Puducherry is currently under President’s Rule after the dramatic collapse of the V Narayanasamy-led Congress government. The party will contest 14 of the 30 Assembly seats, with the DMK getting 13 and smaller allies the rest. As in Tamil Nadu, the BJP has ceded majority to a local party – in this case, the AINRC of former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy. The BJP will contest nine to its 16 seats, with the AIADMK getting the rest.
Polling for all constituencies will begin at 7 am and finish at 6 pm, with the number of booths in each state increased (substantially) to allow for social distancing during the Covid pandemic. The results of all five elections will be declared on May 2.