Everything you wanted to know about the forthcoming assembly elections in an A to Z guide

Amma | Mother of largesse, diva, CM enigmatic…Jayalalithaa faces her eighth election. If she wins, she’ll be the first woman CM to have four terms and the only one after her mentor MGR to return to a second consecutive term in Tamil Nadu
Beef | Will the Dadri incident where Hindutva vigilantes lynched a Muslim man, falsely accusing him of ‘consuming beef’ have a resonance? Kerala, Bengal and Assam all have substantial numbers of people, including Hindus, who eat beef/buffalo meat
Chandy | The heat over graft charges hasn’t burnt the Kerala CM yet. The crafty Oommen Chandy is still crucial for the Cong-led UDF’s poll fortunes. With BJP’s reported rise, all eyes are on the 45% ChristianMuslim vote. Chandy, a Christian, with Muslim League’s backing, is still the most credible minority face
Didi | Maverick Mamata Banerjee is in a fight to sprout stronger, deeper roots in Bengal. She is smarting at the EC’s decision to hold polls in 6 phases in her state when TN and Kerala vote on one day and Assam on two. With a substantial chunk of Muslim voters appearing to be disposed towards her, she’s guarding her nest Doubtful Voters | They number 1.36L, less than 1% of Assam’s 1.87cr voters, but are central to the state’s politics of identity and migration. Branded as illegal immigrants, they have to be cleared by the state foreigner tribunal to reclaim citizenship. Those who can
Ezhavas | With about 23% of Kerala’s population, this backward caste group has a decisive effect on elections. Their organisation, the 113-year-old SNDP, has traditionally backed the Left. But the BJDS, an offshoot of the SNDP, has now aligned itself with the BJP. How much will that hurt the Left? In God’s own country, only God knows
Freebies | The CMs of Bengal and TN are big on giving out goodies. While Didi is apparently giving out cycles in the hope that the bulk order could prompt some cycle-maker to set up a unit in her state, Amma has an ever-growing brand line of sops: from baby kits to bottled water, the very popular canteens and even cement bags
Gogoi | If the Cong CM, who’s pushing 80, wins Assam, it will be Tarun Gogoi’s fourth straight term, a record for the state
Hindu Vote BJP has talked about consolidating the Hindu vote in Kerala. Hindus make up about 54% of Kerala’s 3.3cr population. But a consolidated Hindu vote is difficult to identify. Backward community Ezhavas (23% of state) are at loggerheads with the uppercaste Nairs who form about 14% of the population
Intolerance | Do the charges of intolerance made by Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Sharmila Tagore and several others stick? These elections will be an acid test of whether this issue mattered to the voters
JNU & Univs | Last June, HRD minister Smriti Irani took to universities, broom in hand, to sweep in fundamental change. What followed is sure to impact the polls. It started with events that saw a ban on the Ambedkar Periyar study circle at IIT Chennai, followed by FTII students striking over rightwing darling Gajendra Chauhan (he of B-grade movies and one-para CV) being made chairman. New V-Cs and an empowered ABVP were instrumental in shaping events that led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide at HCU and the JNU turmoil that continues. Protests at Jadavpur University in Kolkata further powered the anti-Right student community
Karunanidhi | The DMK patriarch is mostly playing peacemaker between his sons Stalin and Alagiri and daughter Kanimozhi. The party’s not been able to capitalize on charges against the ruling AIADMK of arrogance, corruption and mishandling of the Chennai floods aftermath. With alliances still in flux, TN watchers say Stalin’s image makeover may not convert into votes
Left | As things stand, if Left’s big daddy, 92-year-old V S Achuthanandan, ends up contesting in Kerala, watchers say all undecided LDF voters will take a swift Left turn. In Bengal, Left veterans are all out on the streets campaigning hard, but with little chance of any significant comeback
Muslim vote | Every neta, barring those in BJP, is betting big on the Muslim vote in Kerala, Bengal and Assam: three states which at 27% (Kerala & Bengal) and 34%, have the largest Muslim population shares after J&K (68%)

Nota symbol | For the first time in these elections, the vote to reject all the candidates will have a symbol — designed by NID — to be included in the EVM

Opposition | Mamata and Jaya look fairly well-placed while Gogoi faces a bullish BJP and Chandy is grappling with graft charges and infighting. Barring Assam, unity among the opposition looks elusive. The Bihar results have slowed the Amit Shah juggernaut and the BJP’s bid to be the main opposition in Bengal
Prices | Do they matter? Seemingly not a prime factor. More than ever before, caste and ethnic lines are driving candidate selection in most states. Even in Bengal, seemingly beyond caste divides, nominee lists of every party show the priority given to a ticket hopeful’s caste
Quotas | Read jobs. Six ethnic groups in Assam, now tagged OBC, are demanding ST status, with an eye on jobs and ownership of land. Every party, from Congress to BJP, has promised them ST status. If this comes through, then Assam will become a state with a massive share of ST population. Currently STs make up about 12.5% of its population
Rahul Gandhi | He’s been quite vocal in Parliament lately and will be on campaign duty as Cong goes all out to retain power in Kerala and Assam. Will his presence help Gogoi and Chandy? No guesses who takes the credit for any wins
Strategist Shah | BJP chief Amit Shah’s impeccable strategist persona took a bad hit with backto-back defeats in Delhi and Bihar. That’s why all energies are focused on Assam where the saffron hold has become stronger in Upper Assam. BJP won 7 of 14 LS seats in 2014 and 37% of votes — more than double its 2009 result of 3 seats and 16% votes
Tea Garden Vote | Plantation workers matter both in Bengal — where the BJP is trying to take up tea issues with the Centre — and in Assam where they number over 60 lakh. Most of them are adivasis and in Assam they are considered OBC and not ST. But they are demanding ST status — an issue raked up before every poll. They’re a deciding factor in 35 of the 126 seats in Upper Assam
U-Turn | Congress in Bengal did a U-turn to join traditional rival Left Front to fight Mamata Banerjee, but will the strategy work?
Voters | 17cr voters in four states and one UT will use over 1.2L polling stations
Women | Will Gogoi’s bid to win over women voters in Assam work? Unlike other states, he has rolled out a series of benefits and sops for the womenfolk, promising them jobs and cows

X Factor | Will actorpolitician Vijayakanth’s decision not to go with the DMK be the X factor in the TN elections? Will Amma reap the benefits of his not going with Karunanidhi?

Yanam | A part of Puducherry which is actually way up the Andhra coast. The UT has 9.3 lakh voters across 30 assembly seats scattered over three states: Puducherry (23) and Karaikal (5) surrounded by TN, one in Mahe (encircled by Kerala) and one in Yanam
Zero-loss game? | Puducherry CM N Rangaswamy has held office since 2001. This will be the 65-year-old career politician’s seventh poll battle — he’s won every time — with seemingly little to stop his return to power


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