The three-member Election Commission (EC) of India has completed the process of all-round consultations for the coming general elections,and the stage is now set for the announcement of the dates early next week.
The process began with the Cabinet Secretary,K M Chandrasekhar,meeting the panel early this week where he is learnt to have asked the members about clarifications on the model code of conduct,as explained by the poll committee on the eve of the 2004 elections. The Cabinet Secretarys representation is being considered important in the light of the world economic outlook,which may force the Government to re-examine some policy decisions in the coming weeks when the model code of conduct will be in force. The panel is learnt to have reiterated that any such decisions can be taken only in consultation with the EC.
In the last of the series of the ongoing consultations,the panel met the chairman of the Railway Board on Thursday,where the mobility of paramilitary troops for election-related duties is learnt to have been discussed. It was decided that the paramilitary troops would move in a linear fashion for the coming elections,unlike their to-and-fro movements during past elections. The poll panel also met the Defence Secretary,Telecom Secretary and Home Secretary over the last week.
From what has emerged out of the consultation process,and the subsequent number crunching in Nirvachan Sadan,the elections could have six or seven phases for the 71 crore voters across India. The country has been divided into 8.2 lakh polling stations. The elections would also see the participation of as many as 2.15 crore first-time voters. Also,the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) would demit office on April 20 when the election process would already have started.
While the three election commissioners and three deputy election commissioners have been burning the midnight oil for more than a week,they have their own ways to beat stress. CEC N Gopalaswami is said to be planning his shopping so that he moves out of his official accommodation as soon as he demits office. Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi is learnt to be finishing a volume of poetry by Altaf Hussain Halli. Election Commissioner Navin Chawla,tipped to take over as the next CEC,is learnt to have taken a couple of days off to visit Chandigarh and Uttarakhand.