Counting Day For India’s Biggest Election Amid Pandemic: 10 Points

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Counting Day For State Elections Amid Pandemic: 10 Points

Election Commission on Tuesday banned all victory processions on the day of or after counting of votes

New Delhi: Counting of votes for the Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu Assembly polls – held between March 27 and April 29 – starts 8 am, amid a devastating second Covid wave and concerns the process could lead to a even bigger spike.

Here are your ten points on this big story:

  1. The battle for Bengal is likely to make the biggest headlines, with the Trinamool and the BJP having waged a bitter, and at times crass, campaign. The biggest fight will be for Nandigram, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the BJP’s Suvendhu Adhikari, her ex-protege and whose December defection triggered a flood of exits, will face-off against each other.

  2. In Assam the BJP is looking for a second straight term and has allied with the Asom Gana Parishad and the UPPL (United People’s Party Liberal) to secure the state. The Congress campaigned hard to reclaim its one-time bastion. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are two of the biggest names on the ballot.

  3. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the BJP is looking to make inroads into states where it is a minor player. While it is fighting on its own in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu the BJP has allied with the ruling AIADMK. In Kerala the incumbent LDF is hoping to buck tradition and win re-election. The Congress-led UDF is the other main alliance. In Tamil Nadu the Congress has allied with MK Stalin’s DMK, with whom it enjoyed a very successful time in the Lok Sabha polls.

  4. The Election Commission on Tuesday banned all victory processions on the day of – or even after – the counting of votes. Amid concern over the spike in cases – and facing criticism over failure to enforce its own rules – the poll body has also said candidates will not be allowed inside counting centres without either a negative Covid report (no older than 48 hours) or confirmation that they’d received both their vaccine shots.

  5. NDTV’s poll of exit polls (warning: exit polls can often get it wrong) gives Ms Banerjee an edge in Bengal. The Trinamool should win 148 of 294 seats and the BJP 130 – a significant return in a state where it has so far been an outlier. The Congress-Left pairing will win 12 seats or fewer, the polls say.

  6. In Tamil Nadu the exit polls predict a sweep for the DMK and its allies, which includes the Congress; they are likely to win 173 of 234 seats. The ruling AIADMK and the BJP’ will win 58. In Kerala, the Left-led LDF front is likely to retain power with 87 of 140 seats.

  7. In Assam and Puducherry exit polls suggest disappointment for the Congress. The BJP is expected to retain power in the former by winning 73 of 126 seats and win the latter, where it is an alliance led by the NR Congress of former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy, with 18 of 30 seats.

  8. All five elections were held as India was hit by a massive surge in coronavirus cases. On March 14, two weeks before the first phase there were fewer than 25,000 new cases per day. On March 27 there were around 62,000 and, by April 29, there were well over 3.5 lakh per day. On Saturday the country crossed the four-lakh mark for the first time.

  9. As the situation worsened, parties were criticised for holding massive rallies. In Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held events attended by thousands and at which social distancing was almost non-existent. Rallies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry also drew large numbers, as political leaders and voters disregarded Covid-appropriate behaviour and violated the laws.

  10. The Election Commission – which had ordered parties to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour was followed at their events – was criticised for appearing to do nothing. Last week the Madras High Court said the poll body “should probably be booked for murder”. Late Saturday the Commission hit back and filed a complaint in the Supreme Court.

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