Voting Polling
[Representational Image] Several candidates in the West Bengal assembly polls 2016 and Assam assembly polls 2016 have criminal cases against them. Picture: The Election Commission of India announced the dates for the state elections, Friday, March 4, 2016.Creative Commons/UNDP in India

West Bengal and Assam will go to polls in several phases starting April 4, while voting in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held May 16. The Election Commission announced the poll schedule for the upcoming Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory Friday.

The state elections will see 140 constituencies in Kerala, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, and 126 constituencies in Assam go to polls. Over 170 million voters will participate in the upcoming elections, the commission said. The Commission said the model code of conduct comes into force with immediate effect.

The state elections will be closely watched to see if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party will be able to gain ground, given that it is not in power in all four poll-bound states. The BJP also seeks to increase its presence in the Rajya Sabha through the state elections so as to ensure its bills are not stalled by the Opposition. Currently, the Bharatiya Janata Party has 48 seats in the 245-member Upper House of Parliament.  

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was in Assam Thursday to campaign ahead of the polls. The party, which saw a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, will hope to deter similar losses in the state elections.

The Congress party recently revived its alliance with M Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) party in Tamil Nadu for the Assembly elections. In Assam, the BJP announced an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) party. 

Election Schedule: 

West Bengal - The elections will be covered under six phases. The polling for first phase will take place on two days on April 4 and April 11 for 18 Assembly constituencies. The second phase includes 56 Assembly constituencies and polling will take place April 17. Polling for the third phase will be held April 21. The fourth phase polling will be held April 25. The fifth phase polling will be held April 30. The polling for the sixth phase, which will include district of Cooch Behar, will be held May 5. 

Kerala - All 140 constituencies will go to polls in one phase May 16. 

Tamil Nadu - Polling will be held May 16 in one phase. 

Assam - The elections wil be held in two phases. First phase will include 65 constituencies and will begin April 4.  The second phase will include 61 constituencies and the date of poll is April 11. 

Puducherry - The 30 constituencies will go to polls in one phase May 16. 

Counting in all states will be held May 19. The election process will be completed by May 21. 

Significant announcements by the Election Commission:

Instead of the NOTA abbreviation for the None of the Above option, the voting booth will feature a symbol for the first time, the Commission said.

Information Technology (IT) applications will be deployed for grievance redressal, web casting, deployment of polling personnel and dissemination of election-centric information. 

All women polling stations will be set up in the five states for the elections.