New Delhi: The ruling Trinamool Congress was set to retain power in the keenly watched state of West Bengal while the saffron party-led National Democratic Alliance was leading in Assam and the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, according to latest trends available on Sunday for assembly polls.
In Kerala, the ruling Left Democratic Front is leading in 89 of the 140 assembly constituencies while the opposition Congress-headed United Democratic Front was ahead in 45 segments.
The counting of votes for the assembly polls in four states and a union territory is being taken up at a time when the country is grappling with a raging COVID pandemic.
According to trends available for 284 out of 292 constituencies in West Bengal, the TMC was leading in 202 while the Bharatiya Janata Party in 77.
However, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee was trailing her former protege-turned-BJP rival Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram by over 8,000 votes.
Belying expectations of a tight contest, the TMC candidates appeared galloping to victory, and, if the current trends hold, the party will easily form its third successive government in the state.
In Tamil Nadu, trends indicated a clear edge for the DMK combine over the ruling AIADMK front.
The DMK combine is leading in 111 Assembly constituencies while the AIADMK front is ahead in 94 segments, according to trends provided by the Election Commission for 206 seats.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami was comfortably leading in his home segment of Edappadi in Salem district, while Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam is trailing his main rival, DMK's Thanga Tamilselvan, a former party colleague, by a thin margin.
In Assam, the ruling BJP-led NDA is surging ahead of the Grand Alliance spearheaded by the Congress in Assam, leading in 77 of the 119 seats, trends available on the Election Commission website.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal exuded confidence that the saffron party-led alliance will retain power in the state.
Assam has a 126-member assembly and 64 seats are needed for a simple majority.
In Puducherry, the AINRC-led NDA was leading in 9 seats while the Congress headed alliance was ahead in three segments after first round of counting of votes polled in April 6 elections, officials said.
AINRC chief N Rangasamy was leading in his constituency.
Counting of votes began at 8 AM and continue late into the night with as many as 1,100 counting observers watching the process.
Exit polls have forecast a tight contest between the incumbent Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the crucial West Bengal assembly polls and put the ruling saffron combine ahead in Assam while projecting that the Left alliance will retain Kerala, a feat unseen in four decades.
For the Congress, the exit polls predicted that it may fall short in Assam and Kerala and lose in Puducherry to the opposition alliance of AINRC-BJP-AIADMK.
The only good news for the Congress was from Tamil Nadu, where the exit polls predicted that the DMK-led opposition alliance, of which it is a part, will trounce the AIADMK-BJP coalition.
The poll results in the four states and the UT are also likely to reflect how the handling of the COVID pandemic has played on the voters' mind.
Polling was held in eight phases in West Bengal between March 27 and April 29, in Assam in three stages on March 27, April 1 and 6, while votes were cast in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry in a single phase on April 6, when the COVID surge had begun in many of the states.
Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are among the 11 states that account for 78.22 per cent of the total active cases, according to the Health ministry.
A three-tier security arrangement is in place in West Bengal's counting centres and 256 companies of central forces deployed across 23 districts of the state that voted in a gruelling election marred by violence and vicious personal attacks.
The result will decide whether Banerjee, who has been in power for 10 years and is arguably fighting the toughest poll of her political career, has been able to thwart the challenge by the battle-hardened election army of the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
The BJP, which had just three seats in the 294-member Assembly after the polls and went to win 18 out of 42 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, had pulled out all the stops in the state in a determined bid to oust Banerjee, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Modi, and add another state to its tally of 17.
The Left-Congress alliance is the third main contestant in the state.
In Tamil Nadu, both Dravidian parties -- AIADMK and DMK -- went into the election without their stalwarts, J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.
In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front is seeking to break the state's four-decade-old trend of swinging between the communists and the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
In Assam, the ruling BJP is facing a challenge from 'Mahajoth' or 'Grand Alliance' comprising the Congress, All India United Democratic Front, the Bodoland Peoples' Front, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the CPI, CPI(ML) Liberation, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Anchalik Gana Morcha.
The BJP has an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad, the United People's Party Liberal and the Gana Suraksha Party.
In Puducherry, the AINRC-led NDA and the Congress-led Secular Democratic alliance are in a contest. While AINRC fielded candidates in 16 of the total 30 constituencies the BJP is contesting nine seats while the AIADMK is contesting five seats.
Counting will also be held in four Lok Sabha seats and 13 assembly seats across 13 states where bypolls were held.
The EC has banned victory roadshows and vehicle rallies.