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Petrol, diesel prices finally drop after 15 days


Across the country as well the petrol and diesel prices fell on Thursday but its retail levels varied depending on the level of local levies in respective states.

Fuel prices on Thursday were finally cut down in the country with oil marketing companies deciding to pass the benefit of softer global oil prices earlier this month to the consumers.

With the price cut, petrol is now being retailed at Rs 90.40 a litre in Delhi, down from the previous day`s level of Rs 90.56 a litre. Similarly, diesel is now priced at Rs 80.73 a litre in the national capital from earlier level of Rs 80.87 a litre.

Fuel prices in the country remained unchanged for 15 consecutive days as oil marketing companies kept petrol and diesel prices static. The last time petrol and diesel prices fell were by 22 paise and 23 paise per litre respectively on March 30 in wake of global softening of oil prices.

With crude remaining below $65 a barrel, for most part of the last fortnight along with softer product prices, the oil companies decided to break their pause and passed on the benefit to the consumers. The OMCs benchmark retail fuel prices to a 15-day rolling average of global refined products` prices and dollar exchange rate.

However, the global crude has again gained and crossed $66 a barrel mark. If this holds for a few days, fuel prices may have to be revised upwards.

Before the long drawn pause, petrol and diesel fell by 22 paisa and 23 paisa per litre respectively last on March 30.

Across the country as well the petrol and diesel prices fell on Thursday but its retail levels varied depending on the level of local levies in respective states.

Premium petrol, however, continues to remain over Rs 100 a litre in Mumbai and several other cities across the country.

(With IANS inputs)




CBSE puts off Class XII, cancels Class X exams


Decision affects over 21.5 lakh students; ISC council reviewing situation

The government today decided to cancel the CBSE’s Class X board examinations and postpone the Class XII exams following an exponential surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi held amidst demands from many quarters, including Opposition political parties, to put off the examinations in view of the surge in Covid-19 cases.

While state boards in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh followed suit to postpone their Class X and XII examinations, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, which is the other prominent national board for school examinations, said it is reviewing the situation and will take a decision soon in this regard.

“The board exams for Class 12 to be held from May 4 to June 14 are hereby postponed. These exams will be held hereafter. The situation will be reviewed on June 1 by the board and details will be shared subsequently. A notice of at least 15 days will be given before the start of the examinations,” said a press statement released by the MHRD. “The board exams for Class 10 are hereby cancelled. The results of Class 10 board will be prepared on the basis of an objective criterion to be developed by the board. Any candidate who is not satisfied with the marks allocated to him or her on this basis will be given an opportunity to sit in an exam as and when the conditions are conducive to hold the exams,” the press statement added.

The decision affects around 21.5 lakh students who had registered for the- Class X and XII CBSE exams.

The country is seeing a resurgence of Covid-19 positive cases in many states, with a few states having been affected more than others. In this situation, schools have been shut down in 11 states. “Unlike state boards, CBSE has an all-India character, and therefore, it is essential to hold exams simultaneously throughout the country. Looking to the present situation of the pandemic and school closures, and also taking into account the safety and wellbeing of the students, the crucial decisions have been taken,” a senior Ministry official said.

The demands for cancellation of board exams were being raised from various quarters. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Mr Manish Sisodia had on Tuesday asked the Centre to cancel the exams, saying it can contribute to a large scale spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi had urged Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal to intervene and direct the CBSE to reconsider its decision to go ahead with the board examinations in May despite the “massive and uncontrolled” rise in Covid- 19 cases. The Shiv Sena had also written to the education ministry, requesting the government to develop a national consensus and reschedule CBSE and other board exams.

Over 2 lakh students had signed an online petition demanding cancellation of board exams and the hashtag “cancelboardexams” has also been trending on Twitter for a week.

Meanwhile, the Rajasthan government also decided to postpone the state education board examinations for classes X and XII. The Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education was also directed to promote the students of Classes VIII, IX and X to the next classes.The Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education also postponed the examinations of Classes X and XII scheduled to start from 30 April and 1 May respectively.

Schools across the country were closed in March last year to contain the spread of Covid-19 ahead of a nationwide lockdown. Several states started reopening the schools partially from October last year, but physical classes are again being suspended in view of the rise in coronavirus cases. Last year, the board exams had to be postponed mid-way in March. They were later cancelled and the results were announced on the basis of an alternative assessment scheme.




With 17,282 new cases, Delhi logs highest-ever Covid spike


104 more die of pathogen; coronavirus cases rising very rapidly, no signs of slowdown, admits Jain

Amid its continuing massive surge in coronavirus cases, Delhi today recorded 17,282 fresh Covid cases ~ its highest single-day count since the onset of the pandemic ~ and 104 virus-related fatalities, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin.

The city’s positivity rate mounted to 15.92 per cent while the number of active cases soared to 50,736, the health bulletin said.

The new cases were detected out of 1,08,534 tests, including 73,915 RT-PCR tests and 34,619 rapid antigen tests, the bulletin stated.

The national capital’s Covid caseload increased to 7,67,438 while its death toll rose to 11,540. Over 7.05 lakh patients have recovered from the virus in the city so far, the bulletin added. The highest single-day spike in Delhi till the “third wave” of the Covid pandemic ~ 8,593 cases ~ was reported on November 11 last year, while on November 18, the city had recorded 131 Covid deaths, the highest single-day fatality count till date. The positivity rate in mid-November had stood above 15 per cent.

Reeling under the “fourth wave” of the pandemic, the national capital yesterday recorded 13,468 Covid cases and 81 deaths, giving it the dubious distinction of being the worst coronavirus-affected city in the county.

Earlier in the day today, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said Covid cases were rising very rapidly every single day and “there is no slowdown” in its spread in the city. He, however, iterated that lockdown was not a solution to the situation, and advised people to step out of their homes only if needed, avoid gatherings, wear masks and follow Covid safety protocols.

The minister said 70-80 patients were being admitted daily to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital. About 80 people were admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital yesterday night, he said. He said the number of beds has been increased in various hospitals, while adding that the Delhi government has again urged the Centre to scale up the number of beds in its hospitals in the national capital. Later, orders were issued on linking of banquet halls and hotels with hospitals to meet further requirement of beds, as and when needed, he said.

In a statement later, Jain said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was directly monitoring the situation of beds and facilities available for patients at the Delhi government-run hospitals. “Delhi government has ramped up the infrastructure available and is fully equipped to combat the virus. I appeal to you all to only opt for hospital admissions when in dire need,” he said.

From April 4 to April 13, Delhi has recorded 77,775 COVID-19 cases, witnessing a massive rise of 234 per cent. During the same period, 376 people have died due to the disease. Jain said that while Covid Care Centres were operational, people were either preferring to go to hospitals or be home-isolated. Of 5,525 beds at these centres, only 286 were occupied, he added.

The national capital had reported 11,491 coronavirus cases and 72 Covid deaths last Monday. It had recorded 10,772 cases and 48 deaths on Sunday, 7,897 infections and 39 deaths on Saturday, and 8,521 cases and 39 deaths on Friday.

~With inputs from PTI~




India reports 1,15,736 new COVID-19 cases, highest ever daily record


The death toll in India has climbed to 1,66,177, and there are 8,43,473 active cases in India right now.

India is experiencing a sudden incline in COVID-19 cases for the past few weeks. It reported 1,15,736 new COVID-19 cases and 630 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry official website.

It is the highest ever daily record of new COVID-19 cases in the country since the pandemic started.

The death toll in India has climbed to 1,66,177, and there are 8,43,473 active cases in India right now.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 1,28,01,785.

In the case of recoveries, 59,856 people have been discharged taking the nationwide tally to 1,17,92,135.

Delhi has reported 5,100 new Covid cases yesterday, its highest single-day tally this year, taking the overall tally to 6,85,062 cases while the situation remains grim in Maharashtra.

Delhi is one of the 10 districts which have been most severely affected by Covid-19 while the list features seven districts from Maharashtra and one each from Karnataka and Chhattisgarh as per the Union Health Ministry.

According to the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin, the national capital reported 5,100 new Covid-19 cases and 17 deaths in the last 24 hours with a test positivity rate of 4.93 per cent.

Maharashtra`s Covid-19 cases again shot up above the half-lakh threshold for the second time in three days, with the total tally crossing 31 lakh, even as the state became the first in India to surprass the 80 lakh vaccination mark, health officials said here on Monday.

Two days after adding a record 57,074 new patients on April 4, the state infections again shot up from 47,288 on Monday to 55,469, taking up the state tally to 31,13,354.

The state fatalities also shot up from 155 a day earlier to 297, as the toll rose to 56,330.

The state recovery rate plummeted again from 83.36 per cent on Monday to 82.98 per cent, while the death rate worsened from 1.83 per cent a day earlier to 1.81 per cent, and the number of active cases jumped up to 472,283.

For the second time in three days, the country`s commercial capital recorded a five-digit case tally. After notching 11,206 (April 4), the infections in Mumbai increased from 9,879 a day earlier to 10,040, taking up the city`s tally to 472,600. There were 32 more deaths, increasing the total fatalities to 11,832.

The Mumbai circle – comprising Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts – notched its second highest figure of new infections since 19,942 recorded on Sunday at 18,594, taking up the total to 991,046, and deaths to 20,737.

Eight States, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh continue to show a steep rise in the COVID daily new cases.




Stray violence mars Ph 3 polling in WB


Overall turnout 77.68 per cent till 5 p.m; Candidates attacked; TMC accuses Central Forces, BJP of high-handedness, voter intimidation

Stray incidents of violence, attacks on candidates, clashes and allegations of rigging and voter intimidation against both the BJP and the Trinamul Congress marked the third phase of polls in the 31 seats across parts of Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas that witnessed a voter turnout of 77.68 per cent till 5 p.m.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee once again raised allegations against the CRPF, accusing the Central forces of openly intimidating TMC voters and influencing many to vote in favor of the BJP.

“The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator, while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party,” she tweeted along with a video of locals allegedly complaining of rigging.

Highest voting has been recorded in Hooghly at 79.36 per cent followed by Howrah 77.93 per cent and South 24 Parganas 76.68 per cent. Even before polling started, a sector officer was suspended for reportedly spending the night with three EVMs and two VVPATs at the home of his relative, who is a Trinamul leader.

The sector officer Tapan Sarkar, who was in-charge of Sector 17 in Uluberia seat, spent a night at a relative’s place who turned out to be a local leader of the TMC.

“This is a gross violation of Election Commission’s instructions for which the Sector Officer has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment,” the EC said in a statement.

General Observer Neeraj Pawan has checked all seals of the EVM, which has now been stored in a separate room under the observer’s custody. Later, six others including two additional officers~ Sanjib Majumdar and Mithun Chakraborty, three home guards ~ SK Mani, Sarnendu Sasmal and Sudip Sarkar and one police sector officer~ Sujit Chakraborty were suspended in connection to the incident.

Incidents of candidates facing protests or being attacked by opponent party supporters were witnessed throughout the day. High drama unfolded in Arambagh hours after a clash broke out between the BJP and TMC workers over allegations of poll rigging.

BJP MP Soumitra Khan’s estranged wife and TMC candidate Sujata Khan Mondal was allegedly assaulted by BJP supporters and hit by a bamboo stick on her head from behind at Arandi village, a charge denied by the saffron party.

The TMC claimed BJP “goons” didn’t allow the party’s polling agents inside the polling stations while the BJP accused her of entering the area with TMC “goons” and creating unrest by threatening people against going to the polling stations to cast their votes. Next, BJP candidate of Uluberia South Papiya Adhikari,was allegedly assaulted when she went to see a party worker, who was admitted at Uluberia Sub-divisional Hospital and her security guards were attacked. She claimed that miscreants gheraoed and slapped her on her neck.

TMC candidate Dr Nirmal Maji claimed that he was “heckled” by BJP supporters and his vehicle vandalised when he tried visiting a booth in Uluberia North constituency. He was made to wear a helmet and escorted out of the troubled area by the police.

In Khanakul, TMC candidate Najmul Karim was allegedly beaten up by the BJP activists and slogans were raised against him. Later, Central forces rescued him from the area.

Similar protests were witnessed by BJP candidates Swapan Dasgupta and Tanusree Chakraborty. In Falta seat, a BJP candidate’s vehicle was attacked.

“A total of 11 people have been arrested in connection with three separate incidents of attacks of candidates. Five persons were arrested over alleged assault on TMC candidate in Arambagh, four arrested over alleged attack on TMC candidate in Khanakul and two over alleged attack on BJP candidate in Uluberia South. Overall polling was peaceful today,” said CEO Ariz Aftab. In Raidighi, senior CPI-M leader and Raidighi candidate and former CPI-M minister Kanti Ganguly said: “Violence and disturbance started last night in Raidighi. Voters are not allowed to cast their vote.”

At least one person was injured when crude bombs were lobbed outside a polling station in Canning East seat. TMC candidate Shaukat Mollah accused Abbas Siddiqui-led ISF for the attack, a charge denied by the party. TMC turncoat and BJP candidate from Diamond Harbour seat, Dipak Haldar, alleged that his former party is not allowing voters to come to polling stations.

In the Dhanekhali seat, state minister Asima Patra accused the Central forces of high-handedness and alleged that voters were being stopped by BJP “goons” from going to polling stations, an allegation dismissed by the saffron party.




Voter turnout: Almost 72 % in TN, 74 % in Kerala


In the Tamil Nadu Assembly election, 71.79% of voters turned for voting till 5 in the evening,Kerala recorded a voter turnout of 74% in the Assembly polls, Puduchery, recorded 76.03% voter turn out.

In the Tamil Nadu Assembly election, 71.79% of voters turned for voting till 5 in the evening, slightly less than the 73.76% of 2016 election. Meanwhile, the neighbouring Puduchery, recorded 76.03% voter turn out. Leaders including AIADMK’s Edappadi K Palaniswami, O Panneerselvam, DMK chief M K Stalin, MNM Chief Kamal Haasan and celebrities like Rajinikanth, Vijay and Ajith exercised their franchise. The polling went off at 7 in the evening almost peacefully.

As usual, many Kollywood stars and celebrities came out to cast their votes. Photos and videos of the actors and celebrities taken at their respective polling booths have gone viral on social media.

Actor Vijay came to cast his vote at a polling booth located in Neelankarai, Chennai in a cycle, surprising everyone. Some suggest that Vijay came on a bicycle to protest against the surge in petrol and diesel prices.

Kerala recorded a voter turnout of 74% in the Assembly polls held on Tuesday. While Kozhikode recorded the highest percentage of 78, Pathanamthitta registered the lowest polling with 69 percent.

In the 2016 Assembly polls, 77.35 voter turnout was recorded. Higher turnout was recorded in constituencies that witnessed a tough contest .

Minor clashes between BJP and CPI-M workers were reported from the Kazhakkoottam constituency in Thiruvananthapuram, where state Devaswam minister Kadakampally Surendran is facing strong challenges from BJP leader Sobha Surendran and Congress nominee Dr.SS.Lal. Several people sustained injuries in the Kattayikonam clash. The BJP workers alleged the CPI-M men unleashed violence on them.The Sabarimala issue dominated the political discourse on the voting day.




Russia ‘no’ to military ties with China


“No,” Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said categorically at a joint Press conference with External Affairs minister S Jaishankar when asked if Russia and China could sign a military pact, given the growing relationship between the two countries.

Russia today ruled out forming a military alliance with China even as it sought further deepening of the defence partnership with India.

“No,” Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said categorically at a joint Press conference with External Affairs minister S Jaishankar when asked if Russia and China could sign a military pact, given the growing relationship between the two countries. “Russia-China relations are currently at the highest level in history but we are not discussing military alliance because we believe such alliances are counter-productive,” he said.

The Russian leader said his country believed in inclusive cooperation with everybody and not cooperation against somebody. The comments are significant in view of the military stand-off between India and China at Eastern Ladakh.

Earlier, Lavrov had detailed talks with Jaishankar on a wide range of issues, including bilateral ties as well as global developments. The issues which figured during their talks included the preparations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India for his summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, bilateral military, civil nuclear energy and economic cooperation, situation in Afghanistan and the challenge posed to the global community by Covid-19.

Asked about the threat of US sanctions against India if it went ahead with the S-400 missile defence system deal with Russia, he said the American warnings did not figure in his talks with his Indian counterpart but they did discuss how the two countries could further strengthen defence cooperation.

He said he had discussed with Jaishankar the prospects of additional manufacturing of the Russian military equipment in India within the concept ‘Made in India’.




Covid cases spreading rapidly, next four weeks critical: Centre


At a Press conference, NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said the pandemic situation in the country worsened with a sharp rise in cases and a large part of the population is still susceptible to the virus.

Covid-19 is spreading at a fast pace with an increase in the intensity of the pandemic and the next four weeks are going to be very critical, the Centre said on Tuesday as it stressed on people’s participation to control the second wave of the contagion.

At a Press conference, NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said the pandemic situation in the country worsened with a sharp rise in cases and a large part of the population is still susceptible to the virus.

The tools to fight the pandemic remain the same. Covid-appropriate behaviour, containment measures, testing have to be implemented more efficiently, medical infrastructure has to be ramped up and vaccination drive intensified, he said.

Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, staying away from crowds have to be followed in a campaign mode, Paul reminded people.

“The intensity of the pandemic has increased and it is spreading faster than last time. In some states, it (the condition) is worse than others but the upswing (in cases) can be observed across the country,” he said.

“People’s participation is vital to control the second wave. The next four weeks are going to very critical. The entire country has to come together and make efforts to fight the pandemic.”

The daily rise in new coronavirus infections in India remained above 90,000 for the third consecutive day taking the nationwide Covid-19 tally of cases to 1,26,86,049, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

Mumbai: All beaches in Mumbai will remain shut for visitors till 30 April amidst the surge in Covid-19 cases, the civic body announced on Tuesday. Municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal issued the order to this effect directing all assistant municipal commissioners to ensure all the beaches remain shut throughout this month.

Delhi’s cases spike to 5,100: Amid continuing surge in coronavirus infections, Delhi today crossed the 5000-mark, recording a single-day count of 5,100 cases — highest this year so far. The city reported 17 fresh Covid fatalities which took its toll to 11,113, according to the latest health bulletin issued by the Delhi government.

~With inputs from PTI~




Poll frenzy grip Bengal, 4 other states


Voting in Bengal for phase three of eight-phases ; single-phase polling in Tamil Nadu, Kerala,Puducherry; last leg in Assam

The stage is set for the busiest day of the ongoing election season with all the five states/union territories~ West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry ~ going to polls on 6 April.

The polling will be held in a single-phase in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry while Assam will witness its third and final round of voting on Tuesday. In Bengal, this will be the third round in the eight-phase elections ending 29 April.

The counting for all Assembly elections will take place on 2 May.

A three-cornered battle is on the cards in 31 Assembly seats~ 16 in South 24 Parganas (part II), seven in Howrah (part I) and eight in Hooghly (part I)~ that are set to go to polls on Tuesday in the third phase. The polling follows an angry showdown of the second phase on 1 April, which was dominated by the high-profile contest between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP rival Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram.

On 6 April, the BJP will seek to storm TMC fortresses while the Left Front- ISF-Congress alliance would hope to make inroads in areas where identity politics has come to the fore.

More than 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise and decide the fate of 205 candidates ~ prominent among them being BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, TMC minister Ashima Patra and CPM leader Kanti Ganguly~ in three districts~ Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas.

Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful voting, with 618 companies of CAPF deployed to guard 10,871 polling stations, all of which have been marked “sensitive” by the Election Commission.

State police forces will also be deputed at strategic locations to aid the CAPF.

The TMC had won all but one seat of the 31 segments in the 2016 Assembly elections. The Congress had managed to bag Amta constituency in Howrah district.

The saffron party, however, outpassed the Left and the Congress to emerge as the main contender of the Mamata Banerjee-led party after the 2019 general election.

The Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, held by political heavyweight and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, will be keenly watched, as four of its seven Assembly segments will go to polls in the third phase, and the rest will follow suit in the fourth phase on 10 April.

The Indian Secular Front (ISF), floated by Peerzada Abbas Siddiqui, has turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for TMC, as the outfit holds sway in several parts of South 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, having sensed the ISF’s potential to eat into her party’s minority vote base, had been hitting out at Siddiqui, alleging that he has been propped up by the BJP, a charge dismissed by the cleric, who is taking on the ruling party with vigour.

Adding to the ruling camp’s woes, the BJP has fielded sitting MLA and TMC turncoat Dipak Halder, who has considerable clout in the area.

Tamil Nadu:

After an intense poll campaign that saw the two main political parties – the ruling AIADMK and the Opposition DMK taking each other headon, all eyes are now on the voters as Tamil Nadu gears up for the single-phase polls today.

MK Stalin-led DMK, which is out of power since 2011 in the state, is in a headto- head battle with ruling party AIADMK led by chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in nearly 130 constituencies.

This is also the first Assembly elections being held without two veterans of Tamil Nadu politics – M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa.

Kerala:

Kerala is all set to witness a high-profile battle between the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF as all 140 seats will go to polls on April 6. Since the 1980s, the LDF and UDF have alternatively formed the government with neither able to gain back-to-back victories in Kerala.

If the ruling front can manage to buck the trend in the state this time, it will be history. If not, then the Left rule will become history as Kerala is the last Red bastion in the country.

Assam:

Assam will witness the final leg of its three-phased elections on Tuesday.

This phase will decide the fate of 337 candidates across 40 constituencies of 12 districts in the state, including the senior minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma in the Jalukbari constituency.

Puducherry:

In Puducherry, the election in the 30-member Assembly will witness a keen contest between the Congress-led Secular Democratic alliance and the AINRC-led NDA.

~With inputs from Agencies~




Assembly elections: Polling underway in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala


Voting began at around 7 AM amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Polling is underway for the third phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam, and the first phase for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry. Voting began at around 7 AM amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

West Bengal Assembly Elections

Voting is underway with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in 16 seats in South 24 Parganas district (part II), seven in Howrah (part I), and eight in Hooghly (part I), they said.

Over 78.5 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 205 candidates, including BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, state minister Ashima Patra, and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly.

The Election Commission has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in all the constituencies, declaring them as ‘sensitive’.

Tight security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful voting, with 618 companies of central forces being deployed to guard 10,871 polling stations.

State police forces have also be deputed at strategic locations to aid the central forces.

The elections for the 294 assembly seats in West Bengal are being held in eight phases. The votes will be counted on May 2.

Assam Assembly Elections

The final phase of the assembly elections in Assam began at 7 am on Tuesday to decide the fate of 337 candidates, including senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, his five cabinet colleagues, and state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass.

Elections are being held amid tight security as 320 companies of security forces were deployed in the third phase, the highest among all the phases.

Altogether 79,19,641 voters — 40,11,539 men, 39,07,963 women and 139 of the third gender — are entitled to exercise their franchise in 11,401 polling stations.

A total of 45,604 polling personnel have been deployed for this phase.

A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) being considered as the third force.

The newly floated AJP is contesting in 22 seats while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of the election in which the BJP-led coalition is seeking to return to power for the second term in a row.

The fate of 20 sitting MLAs – eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the BPF, and one from the AGP — will be decided in the final phase.

Besides Himanta Biswa Sarma, other ministers who are in the fray included Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya, and Phanibhushan Choudhury.

The BJP is contesting in 20 seats while its allies the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in nine and the United Peoples Party Liberal in eight, including a friendly contest between the BJP and the UPPL in Bijni.

The Congress has put up 24 candidates and its partners – the AIUDF in 12, the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) in eight, and CPI(M) in one. The Congress and the AIUDF are engaged in friendly contests in the five constituencies of Jaleswar, Baghbar, Sarukhetri, Chenga, and Barkhetri.

Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Assembly elections:

Polling in the 234 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the 30 Assembly seats in the neighbouring Puducherry began at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Similarly, voting began for the lone Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seat where bypoll is being held simultaneously.

In Tamil Nadu, a total of 3,998 candidates are in the fray seeking the 6.26 crore `one day Sultan`s or the voter`s favour.

In order to have a good voter turnout and also enable Covid-19 patients to vote the poll body has allowed them to perform their democratic right by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits.

Voters have to compulsorily wear mask, thermal scanning will be done at the polling booths.

Arrangements for live webcast of the polling process in sensitive booths have been made.

The ruling AIADMK is fighting the poll in 179 seats and six other small parties each contesting in one seat under the former`s Two Leaves symbol.

The others in the AIADMK alliance are the BJP (contesting in 20 seats) and PMK (23), TMC (6).

In the neighbouring Puducherry, Union Territory having just over 10 lakh voters the fight for the 30-member Assembly is majorly between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) consisting of Congress (contesting in 14 seats), DMK (13), CPI, VCK (one seat each) and an Independent.

The rival National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprises of All India N.R. Congress (16 seats), BJP (9) and AIADMK (5).

Polling in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will end at 7 p.m.

Kerala Assembly Elections:

The fate of 957 candidates would be decided by an electorate of 1,41,62,025 women, 1,32,83,724 men and 290 transgender voters.

Polling is taking place according to strict Covid protocols and while in the 2016 Assembly polls, 21,498 polling booths were there, this time due to the Covid pandemic the number of polling booths has been increased to 40,771.

The poll will end at 7 p.m. and the last hour has been kept aside for Covid positive patients and for those in quarantine.

The principal political fronts contesting the elections are the ruling CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF) the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

In the outgoing Assembly (2016 polls) the LDF had 91 seats, the UDF 47 the NDA one seat and there was one independent candidate.

Across the state, people was seen queuing up before the polling time.

The poll officials at 5.30 a.m. conducted mock polling to see that all the electronic voting machines are in order.

59,292 Kerala police officials and 140 companies of CISF, CRPF and BSF officials are also deployed for duty, which is by far the biggest deployment of central forces for any poll in the state.

(With agency inputs)





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