NEW DELHI: Counting of votes for the assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry is underway, as over a month of hectic campaigning that was held under the shadow of a raging Covid-19 pandemic reaches culmination.
Here’s all you need to know about the elections and early trends:
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) is leading in 216 seats while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in 73 seats as per trends at 6:30 pm.
West Bengal has a total of 294 assembly seats out of which two did not go to the polls due to the death of two candidates ahead of the seventh phase. Polling in these two seats will be held on May 16.
This means that the magic figure that a party or alliance needs to achieve to form the government is 147.
Polling was spread over eight phases – the longest electoral exercise in the state’s history – and the last round concluded on April 29.
The polling was rocked by political violence, which is not unprecedented in the politically volatile state. However, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that dominated the election season this year. The large-scale political campaigning in the state, which is reporting a surge in cases like the rest of India, came under heavy criticism due to the flouting of Covid-appropriate norms.
The state recorded an overall voter turnout of 81.87%, less than 83% recorded in 2016.
This year, the contest in the state was primarily between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
The TMC, led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been in power since 2011.
The BJP, which was for long a marginal player in Bengal, has now taken center stage following a buoyant performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the fading footprint of the once-powerful Left alliance.
An alliance between the CPM-led Left, Congress and Indian Secular Front is also in the fray. However, the alliance is not considered to be a significant challenger in 2021.
Exit polls were divided over the election outcome, with a few of them predicting a hung assembly and others giving an edge to either the TMC or BJP.
A poll of nine exit polls shows that the state could be headed for a fractured mandate. According to the aggregate, the TMC would bag 141 seats while the BJP 138. The Left alliance will be a distant third with just 13 seats.
Whether the predictions hold true or not, it appears that the state is headed for a tight contest.
According to trends at 6:30 pm, the ruling AIADMK is leading in only 68 seats as the opposition DMK tipping the scale leads in 132 seats emerging as a winner.
While the Congress is leading in 16 seats and CPI(M) in 2 seats.
Meanwhile, MNM party founder and actor Kamal Haasan is leading in Coimbatore (South) constituency.
Polling was held for 234 assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu in a single phase on April 6.
The polling was largely peaceful except for some sporadic incidents of violence.
A party has to secure at least 118 seats to form the government in the state.
The elections this year were marked by the absence of the two late Dravidian stalwarts J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.
The state recorded an overall voter turnout of 72.81%, less than 74.81% recorded in 2016.
DMK and AIADMK are the two main rivals in Tamil Nadu politics and the 2021 contest was dominated by them.
The DMK is led by former chief minister M Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin while the AIADMK is spearheaded by the incumbent CM K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam.
The Congress and BJP, both of which have limited political presence in the state, are in alliance with DMK and AIADMK respectively. Both Congress and BJP are junior partners in the alliance.
Two other fronts – TTV Dhinakaran-led AMMK and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan-led MNM – were also in the fray this year.
In 2016, AIADMK proved most exit polls wrong after retaining power in the state which is traditionally known not to re-elect the ruling government.
The exit polls have unanimously predicted a thumping DMK victory in the state.
A poll of five exit polls predicts 174 seats for the DMK and 56 for the ruling AIADMK, which is seeking a third straight term in the state.
As per trends at 6:30 pm, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leading on 57 seats in Kerala Assembly elections as the counting of votes underway in the state.
While CPI is leading in 16 seats, Congress is leading in 24 seats and IUML is leading in 17 seats.
Elections for the 140 constituencies in the southern state were also held in a single phase on April 6.
The two main alliances will be eyeing the majority mark of 71 to be able to form the government in the state.
Polling was largely peaceful except for minor skirmishes and allegations of bogus voting reported from a few places.
The state recorded an overall voter turnout of 74.57%, nearly 3 percentage points less than the turnout in 2016.
Kerala is historically known for the bitter rivalry between the two main fronts CPM-led Left Democratic Front (UDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
This year too, the contest is primarily between the LDF and UDF.
The BJP is also confident of garnering more seats this time from the lone seat – Nemom – it had won in 2016.
The exit polls have unanimously predicted that Pinarayi Vijayan will stay on as chief minister as his LDF would secure a comfortable victory in the elections.
A poll of five exit polls has predicted 88 seats for the ruling LDF and 51 for the UDF.
Either alliance’s victory would mark an important moment in Kerala politics.
An LDF victory would be rare in Kerala as the state has had a record of ousting the ruling alliance for the past 40 years.
On the other hand, an LDF loss would be a big setback for communism in India as Kerala is the only state where the Left is in power.
As per the trends at 6:30 pm Bharatiya Janata Party leading on 61 seats while Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is leading on 10 seats.
Meanwhile, Indian National Congress is leading on 32 seats and while AIUDF is leading on 13 seats.
Assam has a total of 126 seats which went to the polls in three phases.
A party or an alliance has to secure at least 64 seats to form a government in the state.
A major controversy erupted this year when the Election Commission ordered repolling for a polling station in Ratabari after reports of an EVM being transported in a private vehicle belonging to a BJP candidate.
Aside from this, the polling was largely peaceful except for sporadic incidents of violence and reports of EVM malfunctioning.
The state witnessed an overall turnout of 82.04%, down over 2% from the previous election’s 84.72%.
The contest in Assam is primarily between the ruling NDA led by the BJP and the rival UPA front led by Congress.
Unlike the previous elections, the BJP-led NDA this year comprises just two other parties – Asom Gana Parishad and UPPL.
BJP’s key ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) quit the NDA ahead of polls to join the Congress-led front.
The Congress is contesting the elections in alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Bodo People’s Front and three Left parties.
All exit polls have predicted that NDA will retain power in the state this year.
A poll of four exit polls gave NDA 73 seats and the UPA 52.
The All India NR Congress is leading on 11 seats while the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is leading on five seats, as per trends at 6:30 pm.
The Congress is leading on five seats, the AIADMK is leading on only one seat.
Puducherry is a Union Territory that is entitled by a special constitutional amendment to have an elected legislative assembly and a cabinet of ministers.
It has 30 assembly seats in total and the winner of the elections must secure the magic figure of 16 to form the government.
Puducherry voted in a single phase on April 6 and the polling was mostly peaceful except for a few minor scuffles.
The UT witnessed a voter turnout of 81.88% this year, which was a 3.22% percentage points dip compared to the previous assembly elections.
Like Assam, the main contest here is between the NDA and UPA. The NDA comprises All India NR Congress, BJP and AIADMK while the UPA comprises DMK and Congress.
Puducherry hogged the national spotlight just weeks before the assembly elections after the ruling UPA was struck by a spate of defections. This prompted a floor test in the assembly, which the UPA lost.
Since then, the UT has been under President’s Rule.
This year, the NDA is vying to come back in the state under the leadership of the former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy-led AINRC.
Former chief minister V Narayanaswamy, who lost power just before the polls, did not contest this year.
All exit polls have predicted a clear victory for the NDA.
A poll of three exit polls predicted 21 seats for the NDA and just 9 for the UPA.