The month-long exercise for the formation of new assemblies in five states came at a time of an extreme medical crisis as COVID cases and deaths across the country continued to surge at an unprecedented levels even as campaigning peaked and voters turned out in large numbers. The attention of the country is fixed on “the crisis of the century” (a term that emerged after a Union cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi on April 30).
In such grim circumstances, how much the election victories and losses would mean to the protagonists when the counting of votes takes place on May 2 could now become a question in the metaphorical domain of extreme electoral politics.
The Election Commission has banned victory celebrations on May 2 and has put stringent restrictions on the entry of polling agents and candidates into polling centres following a severe reprimand from the Madras High Court that went hammer and tongs against the poll panel for organizing polls “without” adequate COVID safeguards.
The exit polls have shown results on expected lines – except in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee appears to be locked in a tough fight with the BJP and there are chances of a hung assembly.
Here’s revisiting the poll scenario where elections were fought in the time of the deadly pandemic:
West Bengal (Total seats: 294, elections held on 292 seats following death of two candidates)
The first round of the polling took place on March 27, followed by subsequent phases on April 1, 6, 10, 17, 22 and 26 and 29 respectively.
Main issues: The insider-outsider debate, communal polarization, corruption, identity politics, development.
Key constituencies: Purulia: Sujoy Banerjee (TMC), Sudip Mukherjee (BJP), Partha Prathim Banerjee (Congress); Medinipur: June Malia (TMC), Shamit Dash (BJP)and Tarun Kumar Ghosh (CPI-M), Nandigram: Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Suvendu Adhikari (BJP), Meenakshi Mukherjee (CPI-M), Tarakeshwar: Swapan Dasgupta (BJP), Ramendu Sinharay (TMC), Tollygunge: Aroop Biswas (TMC), Babul Supriyo (BJP) and Debdut Ghosh (CPI-M); Siliguri: Ashok Bhattacharya (CPI-M), Shankar Ghosh (BJP) and Omprakash Mishra(TMC); Krishnanagar Uttar: Mukul Roy (BJP), Kaushani Mukherjee (TMC).
What exit polls say: Trinamool Congress has an edge with most exit polls giving it between 130 and 156 seats.
Tamil Nadu (Total seats: 234, voting took place on April 6)
Main issues: Corruption, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), COVID management.
Key Constituencies: Edappadi: Edappadi K Palaniswami (AIADMK), T Sampathkumar (DMK), Kolathur: MK Stalin (DMK), Adhi Rajaram (AIADMK), Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni: Udhayanidhi Stalin (DMK), A. V. A. Kassali (PMK), L. Rajendran (AMMK), Bodinayakanur: O Panneerselvam (AIADMK), Thanga Tamilselvan (DMK), Coimbatore (South): Kamal Haasan (MNM), Vanathi Sreenivasan (BJP); Thousand Lights: Kushboo (BJP), Dr Ezhilan Naganathan (DMK).
What exit polls say: DMK is almost sweeping polls. Most exit polls give the party anywhere between 150 and 180 seats
Kerala (Total seats: 140 sears, voting took place on April 6)
Main issues: Alleged scams (gold & dollar smuggling), alleged misappropriation of flood relief, development, Sabarimala & COVID management.
Key constituencies: Dharmadam: Pinarayi Vijayan (LDF), C Raghunath (Congress); Manjeshwaram: AKM Ashraf (IUML), K Surendran (BJP), VV Ramesan (CPI-M); Puthuppally: Oommen Chandy (Congress), Jaick C Thomas (CPI-M), N Hari (BJP); Palakkad: E Sreedharan (BJP), CP Pramod (CPI-M), Shafi Parambil (Congress); Haripad: Ramesh Chennithala (Congress), K Soman (BJP), R Sajilal (CPI); Nemom: Kummanam Rajasekharan (BJP), V Sivankutty (CPI-M), K Muralidharan (Congress).
What exit polls say: The Left Democratic Front is set to make a comeback. Exit polls give the LDF anywhere between 77 and 120 seats.
Assam (Total seats 126, voting took place in 3 phases from March 27 to April 6)
Main issues: Identity, illegal migration, flood control, hike in tea workers’ wages
Key contests: Majuli: Sarbanand Sonowal (BJP), Rajib Lochan Pegu (Congress); Jalukbari: Himanta Biswas Sarma (BJP), Romen Ch Borthakur (Congress); Dhubri: Debamoy Sanyal (BJP), Najrul Hoque (AIUDF); Dibrugarh: Rajkumar Nilanetra (Congress), Prasanta Phukan (BJP); Patacharkuchi: Ranjit Dass (BJP) and Santanu Sarma (Congress).
What exit polls say: Most say BJP would be the largest party, winning between 60 and 70 seats.
Puducherry (Total seats: 30, voting held on April 6)
Main Issues: Corruption, development
Main contenders: NDA led by AINRC and DMK-Congress’ Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) and Kamal Hassan’s MNM
Key contests: Thattanchavady: N Rangasamy (AINRC), Kardirgamam: P Selvanadane (Congress), S Ramesh (AINRC), Yanam: N Rangaswamy (AINRC), Orleanpet: Om Sakthi Sagar (AIADMK).
What Exit polls say: NDA alliance set to sweep polls, bagging 20-plus seats.