Ballot bugle sounded

With the poll bugle sounded for the Assembly elections in four states and a union territory, 824 seats are up for grabs, making this the most important electoral battle since the General Election of 2019. Continuing with last year’s Bihar poll template that factored in pandemic-appropriate precautions, the ECI has spread the elections over a month. Recent developments in the poll-bound states point to the general direction in which the wind is blowing.

Buoyed by its emergence as a close second to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Lok Sabha poll of 2019 in West Bengal, the BJP has upped the ante to wrest power from the TMC. The saffron party got a boost in the state recently when seven Trinamool MLAs jumped ship to join it. However, CM Mamata Banerjee is valiantly fending off anti-incumbency in a bid to win a third term by wooing voters with various schemes, including providing coronavirus vaccine free of cost. In neighbouring Assam, the shadow of the violent anti-CAA protests looms large. The ruling BJP-led coalition has to contend with the ‘grand alliance’ forged by the Congress and other parties.

A keen contest is expected in Puducherry, which was placed under President’s rule last week after the Congress-led government was toppled amid allegations of poaching of its MLAs. Even as the traditional rivals in Tamil Nadu, the DMK and the AIADMK, are again pitted against each other, the latter faces a churning with its former general secretary Sasikala, released from prison in January, also in the fray. In Kerala, the Congress-led UDF, which won 19 out of 20 LS seats in 2019, is a strong challenger to the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF. Overall, while the BJP is keen to expand its footprint, the other parties are desperately trying to hold their ground. The May 2 verdict will be crucial to the fortunes of various stakeholders.

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