Elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry will be held from March 27 and the results will be announced on May 2. Bengal will vote in eight phases - March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Tamil Nadu and Kerala will vote in a single round on April 6. Puducherry will also vote on the same day. Assam will vote on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Polls will 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 the union territory of Puducherry.
The model code of conduct is now in place in all the states. More than 18 crore are eligible to vote in these elections. This is the first major set of elections to be held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic after the state election in Bihar. Poll officers will be vaccinated as frontline workers.
West Bengal is hurtling towards a high-stakes battle with two-time Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee facing a tough challenge from the BJP. Her Trinamool Congress has been losing leaders - including her most trusted strategists -- to the BJP and the bleed hasn't stopped. She also accuses the BJP of using central agencies to hound her party men with multiple investigations. "Khela Hobe (Game On)," is the Trinamool's slogan, with the BJP calling for "poriborton (change)".
In Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK will face its first state election since the death of its charismatic and powerful leader J Jayalalithaa. The opposition DMK-Congress swept the 2019 national election and hopes to continue its good run.
The BJP, never a big player in Tamil Nadu, has more expectations from neighboring Puducherry, which was placed under President's Rule after the Congress government collapsed. In the last round of polls in 2016, the Congress could win only Puducherry but the party lost power in the Union Territory after multiple resignations - a trend seen in other states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where Congress governments crashed because of defections.
The BJP is also campaigning aggressively to retain power in Assam, where it won for the first time in 2016, beating the Congress. For the first time in Assam, Congress is not going solo. The party has formed an alliance with once arch-rival - Badaruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF, a smaller regional outfit - Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM) and three Left parties. AJP and Raijor Dol has formed a regional alliance, turning the Assam polls into a three-way battle.
In Kerala, it's an intense battle for the ruling Left-Led front and the Congress-led opposition coalition. The voters have alternated between the two in past state elections. The CPM hopes to continue its gains in the only state it rules after a victory in the recent local body elections.