NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Friday sounded the poll bugle for five Assembly elections, with West Bengal having the longest run of 34 days in eight phases from March 27 to April 29, Assam getting three phases from March 27 to April 6, and a single-day poll on April 6 in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
The results will be out on May 2, a Sunday, as the counting of votes in all five states is scheduled that day.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora announced the election schedule at a hurriedly-called Press conference, thus putting brakes on any new announcements by the governments to woo the voters, since the model code of conduct comes into effect immediately.
By an uncanny coincidence, the polling will take place in all the five Assembly elections, including West Bengal, on April 6, which is also the foundation day of the BJP. (It was born this day in 1980.)
West Bengal polling was spread in 2016 in seven phases, while this time it will be over eight phases on March 27, April 1, 6, 10, 17, 22, 26 and 29. Assam has polling on March 27, April 1 and April 6, unlike in two phases last time.
All 140 seats of the Left-ruled Kerala go to polls on April 6, and ditto for 294 seats in the AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu and its satellite Union Territory of Puducherry.
The CEC said the polls are to be held for altogether 824 Assembly constituencies; 18.68 crore voters are expected to cast votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations.
In West Bengal, a party has to get 148 seats to attain majority. Trinamul Congress (TMC) led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was re-elected for the second term in 2016. She faces a strong challenge from the BJP this time, though the Congress-Left alliance is also in the fray.
The Sarbananda Sonawal-led BJP was able to oust the Congress government of late Tarun Gogoi in the last Assembly election. This time it has to reckon with incumbency factor but a rudderless Congress may help it get over the hump.
In Kerala, a party or a combination of parties has to bag 71 seats to form the government. In 2016, the elections were held on May 16 when the Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the CPI (M) won the election and Pinarayi Vijayan was sworn in as the Chief Minister.