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EC announces dates for assembly polls in 5 states: Highlights

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New Delhi, Feb 26: The Election Commission on Friday announced poll dates for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry.

    Election 2021: Results on May 2nd | All you need to know | Oneindia News

    Assembly Election 2021 schedule: EC announces dates for WB, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Puducherry polls

    Voting for five assembly elections will begin on March 27, with West Bengal having the maximum eight phases continuing till April 29, while counting of votes for the four states and one union territory will be done on May 2, the Election Commission said on Friday.

    Assam assembly polls will be conducted in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6, while polling for the Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry assembly elections will take place in a single phase on April 6.

    Elections for the West Bengal assembly will be held in eight phases, up from seven last time, beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said while announcing the poll schedule.

    The second phase of West Bengal's assembly elections has been scheduled on April 1 and will cover 30 constituencies, followed by the third phase on April 6 for 31 seats, fourth phase on April 10 for 44 constituencies, fifth phase on April 17 for 45 seats, sixth phase for 43 seats on April 22, seventh phase on April 26 for 36 seats and last and eighth phase on April 29 for 35 seats, Arora said.

    The Election Commission will appoint two special observers for West Bengal and a third can also be sent if required, Arora said in response to queries on whether enough arrangements are in place for the polls in the state, where many have been raising questions about political violence.

    Arora also said everyone on election duty for the upcoming polls will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before polling day.

    During the press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that a total of 824 assembly constituencies will be going for polls during the upcoming elections. "As many as 18.68 crore electors will cast vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry," Arora said.

    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.

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    ''A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls during these elections. 18.68 crore electors will cast vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry,'' CEC said.

    "In the thick of the pandemic, ECI started test trials with elections to 18 seats to Rajya Sabha. After that, came the challenge of the Bihar elections, it was indeed a watershed moment for ECI. It proved to be a litmus test," says Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner.

    Chief Election Commissioner said voter turnout in Bihar which was 57.34 percent exceeded the last assembly elections of 2015 and the Lok Sabha election of 2019.

    Paying tributes to Covid warriors, Sunil Arora said,"Our tributes to the COVID warriors, doctors, paramedics, nurses, researchers, scientists and all our officials on election duty who are located on the frontline: Sunil Arora Chief Election Commissioner of India."

    Sunil Arora took exception to media reports suggesting Election Commission requested early deployment of central forces in West Bengal.

    He said that CAPF forces were dispatched for all poll-bound states on the same date. "I am not aware where this news came from," Arora said.

    Election Commission has said that the voters will be allowed one extra hour to caste their votes to avoid crowds at the polling centres. The decision was also implemented in the previously held Bihar polls, keeping in view the coronavirus pandemic.

    Sunil Arora said that each poll-bound district will have arrangements for webcasting of voting on at least 50 percent of the booths. Some districts have achieved 100 percent coverage as well, he said. The Election Commission will also appoint General Observer for each State. There will also be an IPS Observer for every poll-bound State.

    ''This will be last set of elections during my tenure before I demit office on April 13,'' he said.

    Responding to questions on the increased number of phases in West Bengal, the CEC said when the EC assesses the law-and-order situation, the assessment is based on several factors.

     Assembly Election 2021: Guidelines by EC for upcoming polls in 5 states Assembly Election 2021: Guidelines by EC for upcoming polls in 5 states

    "Afterall the elections to West Bengal (assembly) in 2016 were in seven phases. The Lok Sabha was in 7 phases. So, 7 to 8 (phases) is not such a big deal because we also have to see the movement of forces, we also have to see the current charges and counter-charges (by political parties).

    "We have to kind of find a way out. That is why we are sending two expenditure observers to Tamil Nadu and two police observers to West Bengal," Arora explained.

    In the 2016 West Bengal assembly polls, the process, beginning from the date of announcement till the date of counting, was completed in 77 days. This time, the period has been compressed to 66 days.

    In the 2016 polls, there were 77,000 polling stations, and 11,000 polling stations went to poll per phase.

    Due to distancing norms, the number of polling stations have gone up to 1.1 lakh. On an average, over 12,000 poling stations would go for polls in each of the eight phases.

    Arora said the Commission has requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide two or three BSF helicopters so that the observers can visit various places for on-the-sot checks. The helicopters would be utilised for all the four states and the Puducherry UT.

    On Assam, he said the number of phases have been increased from two this time keeping in mind the security scenario.

    Responding to questions on Tamil Nadu and efforts to curb the influence of back money, Arora said the state is "expenditure sensitive". He recalled that polls to Vellor constituency and R K Nagar seat had to be rescinded. He said the R K Nagar polls were rescinded on two occasions.

    Arora also said everyone on election duty for the upcoming polls will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before polling day.

    Voting will take place for 126 seats in Assam, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, 140 in Kerala and 30 in Puducherry.

    Arrangements will be put in place for candidates to file their nominations online. Voting will be allowed for an additional hour, keeping in mind COVID-19 safety guidelines, he said.

    Also, webcasting arrangements will be in place at polling stations in critical and vulnerable areas, while adequate CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) deployment will be ensured, Arora said. All critical and vulnerable areas have been identified and advance teams have been already deployed across the four states and one union territory, he added.

    He said door-to-door campaigning will be restricted to five persons, including the candidate, while roadshows will be allowed with a maximum of five vehicles.

    According to Arora, the nationwide vaccination drive has made the situation more conducive for conducting elections and the Health Ministry has declared everyone on poll duty as frontline workers for vaccination purposes.

    All poll officials will be vaccinated before the elections, Arora said.

    Arora, who will demit office on April 13, also said all must be congratulated for the successful conduct of elections in Bihar last year despite the COVID-19 challenges and he is confident of success once again.

    The Commission also announced bypolls to the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala and Kanniyakumari parliamentary seat of Tamil Nadu.

    The bypolls would be held on April 6 along with assembly elections in the two states. The results of the bypolls to Kanyakumari and Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seats will be declared on May 2.

    The Kanyakumari Lok Sabha byelection was necessitated following the death of Congress MP H Vasanthakumar who died of COVID-19 in August 2020.

    Bypolls to the Malappuram seat were necessitated following the resignation of IUML leader K Kunhalikutty.

    Here is the full schedule:

    STATE / UT (number of seats) NUMBER OF PHASES POLLING DATES COUNTING DATE
    Tamil Nadu (234 seats) Single-phase April 6 2nd May
    Kerala (140 seats),Malappuram by-poll Single-phase April 6 2nd May
    West Bengal (294 seats) 8 Phase1- March 27,Phase 2- April 1,Phase 5- April 17,Phase 6- April 22,Phase 7- April 26,Phase 8- April 29 2nd May
    Assam (126 seats) 3 Phase 1- March 27,Phase 2- April 1,Phase 3- April 6 2nd May
    Puducherry (30 seats) Single-phase April 6 2nd May

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