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8-9 phase Lok Sabha elections dates today – Election Commission
The Election Commission will announce the Lok Sabha polls on Wednesday morning, setting the stage for one of India’s most suspenseful elections as BJP leader Narendra Modi, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and powerful regional satraps battle for the top political prize.
EC will unveil the 2014 poll schedule at 10.30 am amid indications that elections to the 16th Lok Sabha are likely to be a summer marathon – longer in duration and with more phases than national polls in the recent past. Unlike the last time which was a five-phase affair, the polls may stretch to 8-9 phases. It will begin by the end of the first week of April and will conclude in the second week of May. The results are expected by mid-May.
BJP is tipped as front runner on the basis of opinion polls, but ambitious regional leaders are also vying for the space vacated by a UPA perceived to be in decline. A long campaign is sure to see several twists in the tale before the eventual winner is declared around mid-May.
The poll announcement will put an immediate end to any new policy announcement and will freeze ribbon cutting as well, with the rush for last minute inaugurals and laying of foundation stone ceremonies coming to an abrupt end.
Formalization of poll dates should see political activity peaking as parties look to seal alliances and allocate party tickets. BJP is expected to soon announce a pact with TDP while Congress seeks to conclude negotiations with Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The third front can be expected to try and clear ambiguity over participation of parties like BJD and AGP.
India could be set for a long and hot campaign as there are indications are that polling will last more than a month and stretch well beyond the expected seven phases, with an eighth or even a ninth phase thrown in.
Polling for Lok Sabha and simultaneous state elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim is expected to begin by the end of first week of April and conclude in May second week, according to Nirvachan Sadan sources. The results may be out in mid-May, allowing parties at least a fortnight for government formation.
The term of the current Lok Sabha is due to expire on May 31.
The highly-staggered polls are despite the nearly 1.15 lakh central paramilitary and state armed police personnel committed to EC by the government for poll security duty. These are over and above the nearly 1 lakh personnel already deployed in “difficult” areas of Naxal-hit states and the insurgency-prone north-east.
The likely 8-9 phases, stretching over almost five weeks, are in contrast to the 2009 general election schedule that featured just five phases spread over four weeks.
Uttar Pradesh, predictably, will have the largest number of phases. Polling in the country’s most populous state, which returns 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, may be scheduled over five to six phases. Even Bihar may vote in four to five phases.
Other states expected to have multi-phased polls incude West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
The model code of conduct will come into force from Wednesday itself. However, the government has already beat the poll code by clearing a slew of pre-poll sops and decisions at the Union cabinet meetings dated March 27 and April 3.
EC has decided to hold polls in constituencies badly hit by Naxal violence, in the first phase itself. This is in line with the home ministry’s proposal that had cited high levels of violence witnessed in 33 districts across Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh during the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The pattern continued in the assembly polls between 2008 and 2013, leading to MHA seeking polling in these areas in the first phase.
The country’s electorate has swelled by 9.76 crore since 2009, and now stands at 81.46 crore. This is the first Lok Sabha poll in which the voters can reject all candidates by choosing the NOTA (none of the above) option.
Candidates will get to spend up to 75% more on their election campaigns, with the individual expenditure ceiling now revised to Rs 70 lakh from Rs 40 lakh for a Lok Sabha poll and to Rs 28 lakh from Rs 16 lakh for assembly poll in the bigger states.