Lok Sabha polls to start on April 7, vote count on May 16
NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Wednesday sounded the poll bugle, announcing a nine-phase election to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim between April 7 and May 12. With polling to be stretched over nine rounds lasting 34 days, as against five phases spread over 28 days in 2009, this general election will be the most protracted so far.
Chief election commissioner V S Sampath, who was flanked by election commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi at the EC press conference here to announce the poll schedule, said polling would be conducted on April 7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 24 and 30 and May 7 and 12. Andhra Pradesh will have simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections in two phases on April 30 and May 7, Odisha in two phases on April 10 and 17, while Sikkim will have a single day poll on April 12.
Counting for both Lok Sabha and assembly polls has been scheduled for May 16. This will give the parties almost a fortnight for government formation, as the term of the current Lok Sabha expires only on May 31.
“The model code has come into immediate effect with announcement of the dates,” declared Sampath.
Among the states, UP and Bihar will vote over six phases; West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir over five phases; Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra over three phases; and Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tripura over two phases. There will be a single-day poll in Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttarkhand and Goa, a majority of north-eastern states and Union territories including Delhi.
Accepting the Union home ministry’s suggestion to hold polls to Naxal-hit and disturbance-prone areas of northeast in the first phase, the EC has scheduled polling in 13 Lok Sabha constituencies across Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland and Odisha in the initial two phases on April 7 and 9, followed by voting across Naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Maharashtra and Odisha over the next two phases on April 10 and 12.
An 81.4 crore-strong electorate will elect the 16th Lok Sabha by voting across 9.3 lakh polling stations in the country. This is in contrast with 71.6 crore electorate and 8.3 lakh polling stations in the last Lok Sabha poll. Around 1.15 lakh Central paramilitary personnel will be deployed for poll duty.
Sampath said while the electoral rolls had been updated with January 1, 2014, as the reference date and published across all the states, the voters could enrol themselves up to the date of notification of poll. In fact, the EC will be holding special camps on March 9 across all the 9.3 lakh polling stations to enable eligible voters to verify their names in the electoral rolls and apply for registration if not enrolled already. The booth level officer will be present at these camps to facilitate the voter to fill up Form 6 for enrolment. “We assure the voters that these applications will be disposed well in time to enable them to vote in the coming poll,” said the CEC.
These polls are expected to be one of the most fiercely contested, with the BJP looking to wrest power from the UPA government beleaguered with strong anti-incumbency. The EC on Wednesday appealed to all political parties and candidates to “uphold the peerless democratic traditions by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of their election campaigns”. “We appeal to the leaders of all political parties, especially their star campaigners, to refrain from using language that is against decorum and decency,” said election commissioner Brahma.