The Election Commission Friday announced the schedule for upcoming Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory (Puducherry). While the state of West Bengal will go to polls in eight phases, Assam will see three-phase voting starting March 27. Elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held on April 6. Results for all four states and Puducherry will be declared on May 2.
Polls are to be held for 294 seats in West Bengal, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala, 126 seats in Assam and 30 seats in Puducherry. After the Bihar assembly elections, which were held in November 2020, elections to these states will also be held amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Election Commission is expected to implement a similar protocol for voting.
The election campaign in the poll-bound states has already started with leaders from different political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP national president JP Nadda, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressing public rallies.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that nearly 186.8 million electorates will be voting at 270,000 polling stations for 824 seats in four states and Puducherry. “Webcasting arrangement are in place at polling stations in critical and vulnerable areas. Adequate CRPF deployment will be ensured in critical, vulnerable areas identified and advance teams have already been deployed,” said the CEC. The terms of legislative assemblies of four states - Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and West Bengal - are coming to an end in May and June. In Puducherry, President’s Rule has been imposed and the assembly kept under suspended animation. The political parties have already been holding rallies in these states.
Assam assembly has 126 members, West Bengal has 294, Tamil Nadu has 234, Kerala has 140 and Puducherry has 33 seats (30 elected and 3 nominated by Centre). Ahead of the announcement of poll dates, Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee announced a hike in minimum wages to Rs 202 per day from Rs 144 earlier for unskilled labour; to Rs 303 from Rs 172 earlier for semi-skilled; Rs 404 for skilled labour (new category introduced). A total of 56,500 workers (40,500 unskilled, 8,000 semi-skilled, 8,000 skilled) will benefit from this. These wages are in parity with rural workers’ enhanced pay (MNREGA unskilled & semi-skilled). Budget provision for this step has been made available for both FY21 & FY22,” said Mamata Banerjee.