Counting of votes for five assembly polls on Sunday, outcome likely to have impact on national politics

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Representative Image
Representative Image

New Delhi [India], May 2 (ANI): Counting of votes for high-stake assembly polls will take place on Sunday in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. The Election Commission has made necessary arrangements for counting.

The counting is taking place amid an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. Counting will also take place for bypolls to four parliamentary and 13 assembly seats. The outcome of assembly polls is likely to have implications for politics at national level.

The exit polls for the four states and a Union Territory predicted a clear victory for DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu, LDF retaining power in Kerala and BJP-led NDA in Assam and a tight contest in Bengal with several surveys giving an edge to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). In Puducherry, the polls predicted victory for NDA.

Bengal has the highest 294 seats and saws a fierce contest between the ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP. 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 sudden rise in coronavirus cases in the country, the first six phases saw constant exchange of barbs between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP leaders.

The BJP has made a concerted attempt to dislodge the TMC and BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda held several rallies across the state. The Trinamool Congress has been in power in the state since 2011. Several TMC leaders joined the BJP in the run up to the elections and Mamata Banerjee contested from Nandigram against her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari.

In Kerala, leaders of both LDF, UDF have expressed confidence of victory in Kerala 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. LDF leaders have said that the exit polls reflect the acceptability of ruling alliance among people.

Kerala has been seeing Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) alternatively coming to power for nearly four decades. If the LDF bunks the trend under leadership of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, it will be scripting history. The BJP also made efforts to increase its footprint in the southern state.

The counting of votes for 140 member assembly will begin at 8 am. The polling was held in a single phase on April 6.

LDF includes CPI(M), CPI, Kerala Congress(M) and some other smaller parties whereas UDF comprises Congress, Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party and other smaller parties. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has Bharath Dharma Jana Sena as its ally.

Vijayan has steered the state through several challenges in the past five years including COVID-19. If exit polls hold true, the 76-year-old CPI-M leader could become only the third Chief Minister in Kerala's history to be re-elected and the first to continue in office after completing a full term.

Vijayan is contesting from Dharmadam, BJP state president K Surendran from Manjeshwar and Konni, Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala from Haripad and Oommen Chandy from Puthuppally.

BJP has fielded metro man E Sreedharan from Palakkad. Other prominent candidates include Minister of Health KK Shailaja from Mattanur, Minister for Water Resources K Krishnankutty from Chittur and Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan from Kanhangad.

In Assam, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a second term after a thumping win in the 2016 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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 April 6. The state has 234 constituencies.

While ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (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 ccother 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).

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. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam is also in the fray.

Within NDA, the BJP is contesting on nine seats, All India NR Congress on 16 seats and the AIADMK on five seats. (ANI)