The counting of votes started at 8 am today for the high-stakes assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, overshadowed by the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
The counting of postal ballots for election results 2021 began amid tight security and strict coronavirus-safety protocols and will continue late into the night. All necessary arrangements have been made by the Election Commission of India for counting.
The outcome of assembly elections is likely to have implications for politics at the national level.
Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this story:
1) The exit polls have forecast a tight race in the crucial West Bengal assembly polls between the incumbent Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
2) West Bengal has the highest 294 seats and witnessed a fierce contest between the ruling TMC and the BJP across eight phases. The Samyukta Morcha comprising the Congress, Left parties and ISF has also tried to put up a strong fight.
While the last two phases of Bengal elections saw subdued campaigning due to the sudden rise in Covid-19 infections in India, the first six phases saw the constant exchange of barbs between CM Banerjee and BJP leaders.
3) The BJP has made a concerted attempt to dislodge the TMC. BJP leaders — PM Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda held several rallies across Bengal. The ruling TMC has been in power in the state since 2011. Several TMC leaders joined the BJP in the run-up to the polls and CM Banerjee contested Nandigram against her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari.
4) In Assam, the BJP is seeking a second term after a thumping win in the 2016 assembly elections where the party ended Tarun Gogoi-led Congress’ 15-year rule when it won 86 out of 126 seats.
The main contest is between the alliances led by the BJP and Congress. The BJP-led led alliance also includes the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL).
The Congress has stitched a broad alliance called the Mahajot, which includes All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the Anchalik Gana Marcha (AGM) and the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF).
Jailed activist Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal has stitched an alliance with Assam Jatiya Parishad. The BJP is banking on the performance of the Sarbanand Sonowal government in the state in the past five years, the initiatives of the central government and the appeal of PM Modi.
5) In Tamil Nadu, the assembly polls will be the first in the absence of two towering leaders of the state and former chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi. The fate of 3,998 candidates was sealed during polling on 6 April. TN has 234 constituencies.
While the ruling AIADMK made a determined bid to retain power, the DMK-led alliance campaigned hard to oust it. DMK has been out of power since 2011. Makkal Needhi Maiam has also made efforts to put up a strong fight. Several other parties were also in the fray.
The AIADMK-led alliance includes BJP and Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). The DMK has allotted 25 seats to Congress, six each to CPI, CPI (M), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK).
6) In Kerala, leaders of both the LDF and the UDF have expressed confidence of victory in the state polls ahead of counting. The exit polls have indicated that the ruling LDF will create history by getting re-elected but leaders of Congress-led UDF have rejected these surveys and expressed confidence of their alliance coming to power in the southern state.
7) In Puducherry, the counting of votes is likely to take place in batches. The results will decide the fate of 324 candidates. The battle is seen mainly between NDA and Congress-DMK alliance.
8) All five elections were held as India was hit by a huge spike in Covid-19 cases. Polling was held in eight phases in Bengal between 27 March and 29 April, in Assam in three stages on 27 March, 1 and 6 April, while votes were cast in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry in a single phase on 6 April, when the Covid surge had begun in many states.
9) On 14 March, two weeks before the first phase, there were fewer than 25,000 new cases each day. On 27 March, there were about 62,000 and, by 29 April, there were more than 3.5 lakh cases per day. On Saturday, the nation crossed the four-lakh mark for the first time.
10) The ECI has banned victory processions and roadshows after the counting of votes as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the country.