India announces election dates in five states

Voters in Tamil Nadu Image copyright AFP
Image caption A total of 170 million voters will be eligible to cast their votes in the five states

Assembly elections will begin in five Indian states in April, the Election Commission of India has announced.

Voting will be held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Bengal and Pondicherry, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said.

Polling will be held from 4 April to 16 May. Votes will be counted on 19 May.

Citizens from enclaves that India swapped with Bangladesh will also be eligible to vote.

Mr Zaidi said a total of 170 million voters would be eligible to cast their votes in the five states.

Regional parties are expected to play a dominant role in the elections.

Voting will be held in the eastern state of West Bengal in six phases on 4, 17, 21, 25 and 30 April, as well as 5 May.

Residents from Cooch Behar will also vote on 5 May. The district is home to 16,000 people who received Indian citizenship after India and Bangladesh swapped control of some 160 small pockets of land on each other's territory.

Mr Zaidi said his department was taking measures to ensure that enclave residents received voter identification cards to enable them to participate in the "country's largest democratic exercise".

The north-eastern state of Assam will go to polls in two phases - 4 and 11 April.

The southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry will all go polls in a single phase on 16 May.

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