New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Friday set the dates for elections in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam and Puducherry, which will serve as a test of popularity for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
West Bengal will have the most spread-out polling, staggered over six phases. Assam will have a two-phase poll. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will go to the polls in a single phase on 16 May.
The counting of votes in all five states will take place on 19 May.
Nearly 170 million voters are registered across 824 assembly constituencies in the upcoming elections, which will make for a massive administrative exercise.
This is going to be the first time that the Election Commission will use a symbol for NOTA—none of the above option— on the electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The terms of the Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal governments end in May, while those of Assam and Puducherry end in June.
The upcoming elections are politically crucial given that the ruling BJP was defeated in the Delhi and Bihar assembly elections last year.
The ruling party is not in power in any of the five states and is looking to perform well in order to expand its political footprint, particularly in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the northeastern state of Assam.
On Thursday, the BJP officially announced a tie-up with Assam’s Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
The Congress party, which is in power in Assam and Kerala, has key stakes to retain in this election given the rapidly shrinking list of states where it is in power.
The ensuing elections are also going to be a test for the regional satraps. Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa-led All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) takes on M. Karunanidhi-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) which has formed an alliance with Congress in the southern state.
In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) is seeking a second term and is challenged by the Left parties and the Congress, which are keen on an alliance but are yet to take a final call on a tie-up.