Voting for polls in 5 states to begin from Feb 10

Assembly Election 2022: 5 states to go to vote from February 10 to March 7; counting on March 10

The polls will have an impact on the destiny of the Opposition, especially the Congress, ahead of the 2024 elections

The counting of votes in all the five states will be held on March 10, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said. Credit: ANI Screengrab

The country was put on election mode on Saturday, one of the crucial sets before the next Lok Sabha polls, with the Election Commission on Saturday announcing the voting schedule for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa between February 10 and March 7.

Uttar Pradesh will have seven-phase polls – February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and 7, while Manipur will have two phases – February 27 and March 3. Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa will have a single-phase poll on February 14.

The counting of votes all the 690 Assembly seats in five states will be held on March 10, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra told a press conference.

This is the third set of elections to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic for which the Election Commission has made restrictions, which includes limiting five persons for door-to-door campaigning. Physical rallies, padayatras and roadshows have been banned till January 15 while a campaign curfew will be in place between 8 pm and 8 am.

According to the EC, 18.34 crore voters are eligible to vote in the five states out of which 8.55 crore are women. There are 24.98 lakh first-time voters, including 11.4 lakh women

“For strengthening democracy, 50-60% voting is not sufficient. The EC will have targeted intervention. Polling booths where voting is less compared to average identified and EC to take steps to find out the reasons and increase voting there,” Chandra said.

The polls will have an impact on the destiny of the Opposition, especially the Congress, ahead of the 2024 elections while the BJP would be hoping to cement its confidence with an overwhelming victory in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur where it now rules and possibly help in overthrowing its principal national opponent in Punjab if not winning it.

The results could also have an impact on the Presidential and Vice Presidential elections in July-August this year as a decrease in numbers could make it difficult for the ruling BJP. It will also have an impact in Rajya Sabha as 15 MPs from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are retiring in July.

The BJP is hoping to retain the four states it is ruling – two of which were managed through engineering large-scale defections from Congress in Goa and Manipur despite it emerging as the single largest party in the 2017 edition of Assembly polls.

For the BJP, a victory in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly will be crucial though surveys in the previous months had shown that the BJP was sliding from the 312 seats it won in the 2017 elections though it was ahead of the halfway mark. Samajwadi Party, which has stitched alliances with smaller parties, has emerged as the main challenger while Congress is banking on Priyanka Gandhi’s women-centric campaign to improve its tally.

Punjab is where the Congress is pinning its hope where it hopes to retain power after shunting out Amarinder Singh, who the party felt was growing unpopular, and replacing with Dalit leader Charanjit Singh Channi. AAP is emerging as a major challenger while Akali Dal is working hard to regain its lost glory even as BJP has joined hands with Amarinder to restrict Congress.

Uttarakhand too is on Congress radar with its veteran leader Harish Rawat, who was sulking over the leadership role, has taken charge of the campaign to oust the BJP, which had changed three Chief Ministers in five states. Congress expects Goa, where 15 of its 17 MLAs defected to BJP and other parties, would also land in its kitty with growing anti-incumbency against the Pramod Sawant-led BJP government but the entry of Trinamool Congress has queered the pitch for the Opposition.

The BJP is growing in confidence in Manipur where it rules after engineering defections in Congress after the 2017 polls. Congress is yet to gather its act together in the north-eastern state.

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