The Election Commission on Friday announced the schedule for the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam. Elections to the 294 seats in West Bengal will be held in eight phases, between March 27 and April 29, while Assam (126 seats) will go to polls in three phases, between March 27 and April 6.
Counting of votes for all four poll-bound states – Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal – and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be held on May 2. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will go to polls simultaneously on April 6.
In West Bengal, where the term of the state Assembly will end on May 31, the date of elections are March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. In 2015, the elections were held in seven phases. With eight phases this time, the West Bengal Assembly election is said to be the longest polls ever in the state, according to NDTV.
A total of 30 Assembly constituencies of West Bengal will go to polls in the first phase. This includes the districts of Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur. In the second phase, another 30 Assembly constituencies will vote in the districts of Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur, South 24 Paraganas.
In the third phase, 31 seats will go to polls in the districts of Howrah, Hooghly, and South 24 Paraganas. The fourth phase of voting will take place in 44 constituencies in districts of Howrah, Hooghly, South 24 Paraganas, Alipurduar, and Coochbehar.
The fifth phase will be held in 45 seats in North 24 Paraganas, Nadia, Purba Bardhaman, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri. The sixth phase, with 43 constituencies, will see voting in the districts of North 24 Paraganas, Nadia, Purba Bardhaman and Uttar Dinajpur.
Malda, Murshidabad, Paschim Bardhaman, Kolkata South and Dakshin Dinajpur will vote in the seventh phase. There are 36 Assembly constituencies going to vote in this phase. The eighth and final phase will see elections in 35 seats in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Kolkata North.
Following the Election Commission’s announcement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a press conference. “Centre cannot misuse their powers for a state election,” she said, according to ANI. “If they do it, then, it will be a big blunder...then, they will have to face the music. We are common people, we will fight our battle. Request EC to stop misuse of money. BJP has sent money to all districts through agencies.”
In Assam, whose 126-seat state Assembly term will end on May 31, the election dates are March 27, April 1, and April 6. In the first phase, 47 Assembly constituencies will vote, while polls to 39 seats will be held in the second phase. The third phase will see elections to 40 Assembly constituencies.
The BJP will fight to retain power and has been campaigning aggressively for it. It had defeated the Congress in Assam for the first time in 2016. On the other hand, the Congress has tied up with five other parties. All India United Democratic Front, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Liberation, and the Anchalik Gana Marcha (AGM) are part of the alliance.
Elections amid pandemic
After Bihar, this is the first major set of elections to be held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Election Commission said that just like the November elections, this time too, all precautionary measures will be in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
This includes measures to ensure physical distancing, hand hygiene and the reduction of polling stations at every voting centre. Besides, states can make local changes and variations for holding the elections, with respect to their coronavirus situation.
Polling time has been uniformly increased in all states and the Union Territory by one hour. Door to door campaigning has been restricted to five persons, including the candidate, while roadshows are allowed but in a staggered manner.