What are the new changes that the voters must know ahead of polls? A look into Sunil Arora's speech!

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has on Friday announced the election dates for the legislative elections for four crucial states- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, and Assam, and one Union Territory of Puducherry. 

The life of the current assemblies of these states will come to an end before June 2021 and the Chief Election Body has been preparing to make imperative and adequate arrangements to conduct the polls by balancing the measures to make comfortable votings and to tackle the COVID-19 spread. The Election Commission had tabled the meetings with the concerned stakeholders to review the situation and preparedness to conduct the polls.

Ahead of the final announcement, the respective state election commissions had examined the prevailing state of conducting elections, the feasible period of conducting the polls, and the number of critical and vulnerable constituencies. After scrutinizing the reports from the state election commissions for the poll-bound states, the Chief Election Commission has said that it will address the media concerning the election dates and measures of these states on Friday at around 4.30 pm.

As announced, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had addressed the reporters in Delhi during which he had revealed the election dates for all the five states and he also announced a slew of measures that are going to make debut from these elections. According to the Election Commissioner, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Union Territory Puducherry will go to the polls on the single-phase election and the polls in these states will be taking place on April 6th, 2021, and the results of the elections will be out on May 2nd, 2021. 

On the other hand, as the sequel of being spelled as a critical state, West Bengal will be witnessing eight phases of elections for its 294 constituencies. Assam will also be having three phases of elections for its 126 assembly seats and the results of these five states will be declared on May 2nd. Let's take a look at the key highlights and new measures and changes announced by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.  

Sunil Arora said that everyone on the election duty for the upcoming polls for the five assemblies will be administered with the COVID-19 vaccine before the election day. He also said that each polling station will be formed to accommodate only 1000 voters with the view of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's protocols. These five states would witness a sharp rise in the polling stations and an increase in the deployment of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF). 

He also said that voting will be taking place for 126 seats in Assam, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, 140 in Kerala, and 30 in Puducherry. Nearly 18.68 crore people will be eligible to vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 assembly seats in the five assembly polls. Arora announced that the arrangements will be installed for the candidates to file their nominations online for the assembly polls and voting will be allowed for an additional hour in the evening on the polling day(s) with the view of the COVID-19 outbreak as additional time will allow people more duration to cast their votes and to restrict from thronging to the polling stations. 

Polling stations will be situated on the ground floor and webcasting arrangements will be in place at polling stations in critical and vulnerable areas, while adequate CAPF deployment will be moved to the vulnerable booths to enhance the security measures. The Chief Election Commissioner said that all critical and vulnerable areas have been identified and proper teams have been deployed to review the situation. People who are over 80 years have been given an option of opting for either postal ballots and in-person voting. 

Arora said that door-to-door campaigning will be restricted to five persons, including the candidate and the roadshows will be allowed with a maximum of five vehicles. The candidates are directed to only bring two people and two vehicles along with them while filing the nomination papers to the Returning Officer (RO) in their respective states. The expenditure limit for each constituency in Puducherry has been capped to Rs 22 lakh while each constituency in the rest of the four states has been limited to Rs 30.8 lakh. 

By citing that the poll officials on duty must be vaccinated one day prior to the election, Sunil Arora stated that the nationwide vaccination drive to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation conducive to conduct the elections and the Union Health Ministry has declared everyone on poll duty as frontline workers for the vaccination purpose. With these new measures, the nation will be marking an unprecedented fashion of assembly polls. 

Sunil Arora has also named the observers for the states to overview and examine the electoral process in the states and to monitor the circulation of money under the proposed norms. These observers were former Indian Civil Service officers and Arora had observed that there would be a vast circulation of money and he has appointed two observers for the state. As the election schedule has been announced, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into force in these states. Below are the dates for the multi-phased elections in Assam and West Bengal. 

Assam will be going through the three-phase polls, 

  • 1st Phase - March 27
  • 2nd Phase - April 1
  • 3rd Phase - April 6 

West Bengal will be going through the eight-phase polls unprecedently, 

  • 1st Phase - March 27
  • 2nd Phase - April 1
  • 3rd Phase - April 6
  • 4th Phase - April 10
  • 5ht Phase - April 17
  • 6th Phase - April 22
  • 7th Phase - April 26
  • 8th Phase - April 29 

The results for all these elections will be declared on May 2, 2021.