Election Commission announces schedule for five assembly elections

Details on polling dates, number of phases and Covid-19 protocols announced

Vishruthi Girish | Feb 26, 2021

The Election Commission of India today announced the schedule for the 2021 General Elections to the Legislative Assembly Elections in five Indian states in a virtually telecasted press conference held at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. Polling is to start on March 27 in Assam and West Bengal and go up to April 29 in West Bengal.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, who presided over the conference, announced the schedule for the various stages, the number of phases and other rules and regulations to be implemented at the five states — Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.  

Elections in Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu will be conducted in a single phase. Assam’s elections are to be conducted in three phases, and West Bengal’s in eight phases. While constituencies in phase-I of Assam will go to the polls on March 27, citizens of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will cast their votes on April 06. Constituencies in phase-VIII of West Bengal will cast their votes on April 29.

Being the second cycle of elections held amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Arora asserted that social protocol would be enforced at every stage of the election process, and also recalled that the Bihar General Election in 2020 was pulled off in a similar hassle-free manner.

Owing to the prevailing health emergency and the importance of social distancing, the number of polling stations in every state has been increased significantly and the necessary manpower recruited for every booth. Kerala particularly sees an 89.65% increase in the number of polling booths on account of having a large population density and a single-phase election.

The ECI declared that all polling officials would be considered frontline workers and given preference for getting vaccinated against Covid-19 before the election process. “ECI seniors at headquarters will be vaccinated only after all officials and staff of the five states are vaccinated,” said Sunil Arora.

Polling time has be increased by one hour to facilitate better crowd management, and the “absentee voter” provision has been extended to citizens above the age of 80, wherein they are considered as “persons with disabilities” and can thereby seek postal ballot paper for casting their votes.

Sunil Arora added that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) along with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health promulgates that States could make local variations to guidelines based on ground realities, in consultation with the Election Commission.