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Counting in Assembly polls to be held on May 11

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, May 10: Amid tight security, counting of votes cast in the assembly election in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Asom and Pondicherry will be taken up tomorrow, the outcome of which may have a bearing on the stability of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government at the Centre.

Counting will also be taken up in the Lok Sabha byelection held in the Rae Bareli constituency of Uttar Pradesh, from where Congress President Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election, and the Deeg assembly constituency in Rajasthan.

The crucial assembly elections in four states and one union territory are expected to determine the future course of relationship between the Congress and its key Left allies at the Centre.

It was a straight contest between the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala while the fight in West Bengal was between the ruling Left Front and an assortment of various parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

The election in Tamil Nadu was also virtually a straight fight between the ruling AIADMK and the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA). In Asom, the ruling Congress was pitted against the newly-floated Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), Asom Gana Parishad and the BJP. The Congress is seeking to retain power in alliance with the DMK against the AIADMK in Pondicherry.

Polling was held in two phases in Asom, five phases in West Bengal, three phases in Kerala, two phases in Pondicherry and one phase in Tamil Nadu. Polling was by and large peaceful everywhere, thanks to the heavy deployment of security forces and the elaborate arrangements made by the Election Commission.

Counting of votes will begin simulatenously at 0800 hrs in all the states and the outcome is likely to be known within 3-4 hours.

Besides the results in the assembly election, poll analysts and the people at large will also keenly await the outcome of the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha poll. The victory of the Congress President in Rae Bareli is almost a foregone conclusion but the interest will be in her victory margin.

Ms Gandhi had resigned the Lok Sabha seat as well as the chairmanship of the National Advisory Council (NAC) in March following the office-of-profit controversy.

If various exit polls are to be believed, Tamil Nadu may witness the installation of its first coalition government, headed by the DMK.

The pollsters have predicted a resounding victory for the Left Front in West Bengal and the LDF is expected to dislodge the UDF in Kerala.

A hung assembly seems imminent in Asom with the Congress appearing set to emerge as the single largest group.

In Pondicherry, the Congress is making a desperate attempt to retain power.

West Bengal

In West Bengal, 1654 candidates, including 137 women were in the fray in Kolkata and 18 districts. Polling for Bhatpara constituency, which was countermanded following the death of a candidate, will be held on May 16. At stake are the fates of 19 Ministers, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his cabinet colleagues Nirupam Sen, Asim Dasgupta, Surjyakanta Mishra, Manab Mukherjee, Ashok Bhattacharjee and Subhash Chakraborty besides Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim.

Prominent among others are Congress Legislature Party leader Atish Chandra Sinha, CPI (M) Chief Whip Rabin Deb and his counterparts Asit Mitra and Sovandeb Chatterjee of the Congress and Trinamool Congress respectively, former city Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and the Tollywood 'hero' and 'villain' Tapas Pal and Biplab Chatterjee, fighting a battle outside the silver screen as Trinamool Congress and CPI (M) nominee respectively.

With the opposition crying foul for long over alleged malpractices and 'scientific rigging' by the Left Front, for the first time the state witnessed a high surveillance of the Election Commission, taking up absolute control of the polls, held amid an unprecedented security.

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK General Secretary and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, her ministerial colleagues, DMK President M Karunanidhi, actor Vijayakant and DMK Deputy General Secretary M K Stalin are among the political heavyweights whose fortunes are at stake.

Counting would be taken up at 82 centres in 60 towns spread across the state. Postal ballots would be counted first followed by votes polled through EVMs, official sources said. While trends would be known in a couple of hours, first results were expected by 1100 hrs. Results of all 234 seats would be known by afternoon.

A record 70.22 per cent of the over 4.63 crore electorate voted in the election on May 8, the highest turnout since 1984.

The ruling AIADMK, heading the Democratic People's Alliance (DPA), has the highest number of 182 candidates, leaving 52 seats to allies - MDMK (35), Dalit Panthers of India (9), two to Indian National League and an INTUC faction, one each to JD(S), an IUML splinter group, Moovender Munnetra Kazhagam and the AIFB's Santhanam faction.

The DMK is contesting 129 seats, having left 48 seats to Congress, 31 to PMK, 13 to CPI-M, ten to CPI and three to IUML. This is the second time the DMK is contesting such a low number of seats.

While the BJP is contesting 180 seats, Vijaykant's Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK) is testing the waters in all seats.

AIADMK has 140 members in the outgoing Assembly, DMK 30, Congress 25, PMK 16, CPI(M) six, CPI and BJP five each and Forward Bloc one.

Kerala

A Thiruvananthapuram report said the Marxist-led Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) is in an upbeat mood with pre-poll and exit polls predicting a victory for them even in the absence of any marked anti-incumbency factor in Kerala. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), however, says it will retain power, even if by a slender margin.

Previous elections in 2001 saw the UDF wresting power from the Marxist-led combine by a huge majority of 100 in the 140-member house. Much water has flown under the bridge since as the Congress lost almost all by-polls, elections to Parliament and local bodies. Mr Oommen Chandy took over as Chief Minister after Mr A K Antony's resignation and the Congress later split with veteran leader K Karunakaran forming a new party. However, Mr Karunakaran threw in his lot with the UDF for the election.

While the UDF projected Mr Chandy as Chief Ministerial candidate, the LDF is in some confusion on the leadership issue. Though CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan stole the limelight during campaign, it is uncertain whether he would be asked to head the government if the LDF got a majority.

Initially, Mr Achuthanandan was denied a ticket by the party, which reversed the decision following stiff internal protests. It was said the faction identified with CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan was strongly opposed to his candidature.

Mr Achuthanandan is seeking re-election from Malampuzha where his Congress rival is Mr Satheesan Pacheni.

Prominent among other candidates in the fray are LDF convener Paloli Mohammed Kutty (Ponnani), Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) president, K Muraleedharan (Koduvally), Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty (Kuttippuram), former Union Minister and BJP leader O Rajagopal (Palakkad), CPI(M) Central Committee members M A Baby (Kundara) and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalasseri), CPI(M) State Secretariat member T M Thomas Issac (Mararikulam) and former Assembly Speaker M Vijayakumar (Thiruvananthapuram - North).

Asom

If exit polls are an indicator, no party or alliance seems to emerge clear winners in Asom. All eyes would be set on the smaller parties and Independents who are likely to emerge as the kingmakers.

The Bodo faction, newly-floated Asom United Democratic Front and the Independents are seen as crucial in determining who forms the government at Dispur.

Election for 126 seats in the state assembly was held in two phases on April 3 and 10. About 75 per cent of total 1,74,34,181 voters exercised their franchise in 18,718 polling stations across the state.

The fate of 997 candidates are sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), of whom 69 are women.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, AGP chief ministerial candidate Brindabon Goswami, BJP leader and former Union minister Bijoya Chakrabarty, state Congress chief Bhubaneshwar Kalita and former chief minister Prafula Kumar Mahanta are among the important leaders who were in the fray in Asom.

Pondicherry

The 30 member Pondicherry Assembly went to the polls in two phases. While Mahe, Palloor and Yanam constituencies voted in the first phase on May 3, the electorate in Pondicherry with 21 seats and Karaikal with six seats exercised their franchise on May 8 in the second phase.

As many as 218 candidates contested the elections, prominent among them being Chief Minister N Rangasamy, former Chief Ministers V Vaithilingam, R V Janakiraman and P Kannan, founder president of the Puducherry Munnetra Congress.

UNI

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In focus: State Assembly election 2006

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