Assembly elections 2021: 4 states, 1 UT, 18 crore voters - The race begins

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West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Tamil Nadu CM Edappad...Read More

NEW DELHI: The election commission on Friday announced that voting for five assembly elections will begin on March 27, with West Bengal set to hold eight-phase polls and Assam three. Counting for all the seats will be held on May 2.
In 2016,

BJP

had won only 64 of the 824 seats in the fray. It has little to lose this time. For

Congress

, it's a matter of survival, but regional parties are the ones to watch out for.
West Bengal
Some see this as the most significant of the state polls, given the high-octane and often-violent contest between Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee and the BJP. Banerjee could be fighting the toughest election of her political career, having made it a "daughter-of-the-soil" versus "outsiders" battle.
A win will make her a hero for anti-BJP politics, vastly enhancing her stature not only in Bengal but nationally.

Note: In 2011, Trinamool and Congress were allies.
Electorate: 7.2cr
A win for the BJP will be a big success in a state where it has been a political and cultural outlier and where every election since Independence has been won by left or left-of-centre parties.
At stake is not only the Bengal assembly - whoever wins this round may have a distinct advantage in the 2024 general elections as well.
With PM Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in the thick of things, the election will be gripping. The Left-Congress combine will, for the most part, be trying to ensure it is not totally decimated from Bengal politics; it won just two Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and was ahead in only nine assembly segments.
Tamil Nadu
Often seen as a swing state, it offers the best prospects for Congress to halt erosion in its electoral fortunes as a junior partner of

DMK

.
The DMK-led alliance scored 38 of the state's 39 Lok Sabha seats and is a front-runner in the assembly polls. But the AIADMK government, contrary to expectations, survived post-Amma and with BJP as partner is not out of the reckoning.

Note: Allies as they were at that time. In 2016, polls were not held in two seats.
Electorate: 6.lcr
The polls are a key test not only for EPS and his allies but for Sasikala who seeks Jayalalithaa's legacy. Her incarceration has handicapped her preparations but she could dent the AIADMK.
Stalin's leadership of DMK is not in question, but he needs to win the big prize of the CM seat that will seal his ascendancy as Karunanidhi's successor.
BJP will hope to make gains in the company of AIADMK though it remains a limited force.
Kerala
Somewhat unexpectedly, after having lost vote ground to Congress in the Lok Sabha election, the LDF seems back in the reckoning following strong results in the local body polls.
Amid a perception that Congress's alliance with the Jamaat-backed Welfare Party failed and in fact annoyed its base, the party has been struggling to settle internal equations.

*Includes Independents in the two fronts. Fronts are as they were at that time.
Electorate: 2.6cr
However, Congress is the main challenger even if BJP is now a larger presence than ever before. The Left leadership has also moved to assuage hurt over its heavy-handed crackdown on "pro-Sabarimala" protesters by withdrawing cases and doing the same with CAA-related matters.
Having become the third party in West Bengal, retaining Kerala is important for CPM. Similarly, after his relocation to Kerala, the results will have a bearing on Rahul Gandhi's leadership as well.
Assam
BJP won an unexpected victory in Assam in D 2016 and is hoping to consolidate its hold in a state that was long a Congress stronghold.
Regional parties like AGP are the other contenders. Congress will miss the late Tarun Gogoi, on whom the Centre has conferred a Padma Bhushan. But its alliance with Badruddin Ajmal's AUDF can prevent division of Muslim votes, and BJP will be confronted with a strong demographic challenge.

Electorate: 2.2cr
Congress-AUDF will also attack BJP on CAA and exploit an ethnic faultline. BJP is hoping that CM Sarbananda Sonowal's non-controversial image and development initiatives will help retain the state, which is integral to its political ambitions in the Northeast region.
Pudducherry
The UT presents BJP its best chance of governing in the south, where it has not moved beyond Kamataka. It's allied with AINRC leader and former CM N Rangaswamy, who is seen as a politician with simple habits.

Electorate: 9.8L
AIADMK is the third partner and the alliance is bolstered by resignations from Congress and DMK bringing down the

V Narayanasamy

government just ahead of the polls.
Congress and DMK face a tough task as the allies were not able to hold onto their flock. With Congress on a sticky wicket, the opposition is banking on the local credentials of Rangaswamy to win.

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