The Election Commission announced the dates for the Assembly elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry.
The Assembly polls for 294 seats in West Bengal will be conducted over a record eight phases, from March 27 till April 29, and that of Assam’s 126 seats in three phases — from March 27 to April 6. The southern states and the UT will hold polls in a single phase on April 6. Kerala has 140 Assembly seats, Tamil Nadu 234 and Puducherry 30.
The rationale behind so many phases during elections has been questioned in the past and this time too the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not shy away from questioning the EC over the number of phases in West Bengal and the election dates. As per the leader, the dates have been suggested by Modi and Shah for better BJP poll campaign management and “tricks” despite which she dares to win elections in Bengal.
From Mamata Banerjee’s rationale it would appear BJP will not be campaigning as much in other states or it is not as keen in other states as it is about West Bengal or even Assam. BJP has been working in Bengal for a while using old tricks, getting MLA defections and promoting a pro-Hindu agenda to stop Mamata’s “appeasement” politics.
The state will see a three-cornered fight between the Trinamool Congress, the BJP and an alliance between Left parties, the Congress and the Indian Secular Front.
In Assam, the Congress has stiched a “strategic alliance” with six other parties to unite all opposition votes against BJP in that state after the saffron party wrested power from it in 2016. Congress first got Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF, its rival since 2005, all three left parties and another small regional force on board to form the “grand alliance” and then managed to bring back Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).
In Kerala the Congress-led UDF is likely to contest on 95-98 seats. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest party in the coalition, is expected to get 27 seats — three more than what it fought in the 2016 polls. Congress had contested on 87 seats in the last elections.
Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have been seen leading the election campaigns for Congress. Whether by diving into waters with fishermen in Kerala or by plucking tea leaves in the gardens of Assam the Gandhis have outshone the BJP when it comes to managing poll campaigns or capturing the poll news headlines.
Prime Minister Modi’s marketing tactics to remain on posters of petrol pumps or on papers of immunization certificates have received a jolt after they were challenged by the Trinamool Congress for violating the model code of conduct. The certificate, issued for receiving the free COVID-19 vaccine in the state, reportedly carries photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and excerpts of his speech. As per recent reports, India has emerged as perhaps the only country so far whose leader is using vaccination certificates to “promote his own politics and cult of personality”.
On Wednesday, the EC had directed all petrol pumps in poll-going states to remove hoardings or advertisements with the prime minister’s photographs within 72 hours, citing violation of the model code of conduct.
The counting of votes for all five states/UT will be held on May 2.