Voting begins in single-phase poll for Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry assemblies
Voters waiting in queues at a polling station at Kulathoopuzha in Kollam district of Kerala, in the elections to the State Legislative Assembly, on April 6, 2021.

Voting begins in single-phase poll for Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry assemblies

Polling also being held in 3rd and final phase of elections in Assam and third of eight phases in Bengal

New Delhi, April 6, 2021

Polling began this morning in the single-phase elections to the 234-Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, the 140-member Kerala assembly and the 30-member Puducherry assembly this morning.

Polling also began in the third and final phase of the elections in Assam and in the third of eight phases of voting in West Bengal.

Voting also began in the bye-election for the Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, which is being held simultaneously.

The polling, which began at 7 am in all the constituencies, will end at 6 pm in Assam, 6.30 pm in West Bengal and at 7 pm in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

In Tamil Nadu, there are a total of 3,998 candidates in the fray, including 411 women, and 6.26 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in today's elections, in which the main contest is between the ruling AIADMK-led alliance and the opposition DMK-led front, which also includes the Congress.

About 1.58 lakh security personnel have been deployed for security across the State.

The others in the fray are actor-turned-politicians Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) alliance, Vijayakant-promoted DMDK, the alliance led by Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) floated by T. T. V.Dhinakaran and movie director Seeman's Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK).

The AIADMK-led alliance, headed by Chief Minister K Palaniswami, is seeking a third term in office while the DMK, led by its president M K Stalin, is trying to regain power after a decade in the wilderness.

The AIADMK has put up its candidates for 179 seats. Among its allies, the BJP is contesting 20 seats, the PMK 23, and the TMC six. Six small parties are contesting one seat each under the AIADMK's Two Leaves symbol.

On the other hand, the DMK has put up its candidates for 173 seats. Among its allies, the Congress has fielded 25 candidates, the CPI, the CPIM, the MDMK and VCK six each, the IUML and KMDK three each, the MMK two, and the All India Forward Bloc, Makkal Viduthalai Katchi, Athi Thamizhar Peravai and Tamizhaga Vazhuvurimai Katchi one each.

A total of 187 candidates -- DMK's own and some from its allies -- are contesting under the DMK's Rising Sun symbol.

The MNM is allied with actor Sarathkumar's AISMK and IJK while Dhinakaran's AMMK has allied with the DMDK, AIMIM and others.

The Seeman-led NTK is going it alone contesting in all the 234 constituencies.

The other parties in the fray on their own are the Bahujan Samaj Party (contesting in 160 seats), Puthiya Tamizhagam (60 seats) and Republican Party of India (16 seats).

Notable candidates in the polls and the constituencies are: Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam (Bodinayakkanur), Stalin (Kolathur), his son Udhayanidhi Stalin (Chepauk-Tiruvallikeni), DMDK Treasurer and Vijayakant's wife Premalatha (Vridhachalam), MNM founder Kamal Haasan (Coimbatore South), TN BJP President L. Murugan (Dharapuram), actor Khushbu Sundar (Thousand Lights), TN BJP Vice President K. Annamalai, PMK's G. K. Mani (Pennagaram) and Seeman (Tiruvottriyur).

In the bye-election for the Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seat, the main fight is between former Union Minister and BJP's Pon Radhakrishnan and Congress party's Vijay Vasanth, though there are a dozen candidates.

The bye-election was necessitated by the death of Congress MP H. Vasanthakumar, the father of the current Congress candidate.

In neighbouring Puducherry, Union Territory, having just 10.04 lakh voters, the fight for the 30-member Assembly is majorly between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), consisting of Congress (contesting in 14 seats), DMK (13), CPI, VCK (one seat each) and an Independent, and the rival National Democratic Alliance (NDA), comprising All India N.R. Congress (16 seats), BJP (9) and AIADMK (5).

There are 324 candidates, including 34 women, in the fray in the 30 constituencies.

In Kerala, the fate of 957 candidates would be decided by an electorate consisting of 1,41,62,025 women, 1,32,83,724 men and 290 transgender voters. As many as 40,771 polling booths have been set up across the state for today's polls.

The principal political fronts contesting the elections are the ruling CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF), which is hoping to make history in the State by being returned for a successive term in office, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

In the last elections in 2016, the LDF had won 91 seats, the UDF 47 and the NDA one. One independent candidate had also been elected.

As many as 59,292 Kerala police personnel and 140 companies of the CISF, CRPF and BSF have been deplyed across the State to ensure a free and fair poll.

In Assam, the third and final phase of polling is being held amidst tight security for the remaining 40 seats in the 126-member assembly.

Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said that all necessary steps have been taken to conduct free, fair, peaceful and smooth elections on Tuesday, when 79,19,641 voters including 39,07,963 women electorates are eligible to cast their votes across 9,587 polling stations in 6,107 locations.

Of the 9,587 polling stations, 316 are all-women managed polling stations.

Khade told the media that around 32,000 Central Armed Police Forces, along with thousands of state security force personnel, have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase in which 45,604 polling personnel were engaged to conduct the polls.

Tuesday's polling will decide the political fate of the ruling BJP's pointsman and Finance, Health, Education, PWD Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and ruling party's state President Ranjeet Kumar Dass.

Sarma, convener of the BJP backed anti-Congress body -- North East Democratic Alliance, is contesting from the Jalukbari seat from where he has consecutively won since 2001 while Dass is contesting from Patacharkuchi seat. In the last elections in 2016, he was elected to the Assembly from the Sorbhog constituency.

In West Bengal, polling is being held today for 31 of the 294 seats in the State Assembly.

Considering the sensitivity of these 31 seats, the Election Commission has not only declared all the 10,871 booths sensitive but also made extensive arrangements to prevent any untoward incidents.

The 31 seats -- including 16 in South 24 Parganas, eight in Howrah and seven in Hooghly -- are crucial both for the ruling Trinamool Congress, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The total number of electors in these constituencies is 78,56,474, including 39,97,218 men and 38,59,013 women.

As many as 205 candidates, including 13 women, are in the fray for these 31 seats.

(With inputs from IANS)

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