April 16 to May 16 is when India will decide

Setting in motion the process for the constitution of the 15th Lok Sabha,the Election Commission today announced polls in five phases from April 16 to May 13.....

Written by Suman K Jha | New Delhi | Published: March 3, 2009 2:40:33 am

Setting in motion the process for the constitution of the 15th Lok Sabha,the Election Commission today announced polls in five phases from April 16 to May 13. Counting of votes will take place on May 16 and the new House will be constituted by June 2. Assembly elections to Andhra Pradesh,Orissa and Sikkim will be held along with the Lok Sabha elections.

“The model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect,” said Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami who will demit office on April 20 after the first phase of elections.

The dates for the five-phase elections are April 16,April 23,April 30,May 7 and May 13. Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir will vote in five phases,Bihar in four while there will be three phases in Maharashtra and West Bengal. Andhra Pradesh,Assam,Jharkhand,Karnataka,Madhya Pra-desh,Manipur,Orissa and Punjab will vote in two stages. The remaining 15 states and seven Union Territories will have a single-day poll.

This was announced by CEC Gopalaswami at a press conference,also attended by Election Commissioners Navin B Chawla — he is likely to be the next CEC — and S Y Quraishi.

While the poll panel has of late been in the news for all the wrong reasons,sources said the “poll timeline shows the institution alone counts”.

“The first phase of election is on April 16. The incumbent CEC demits office on April 20,and a new CEC presides over the remaining four phases of elections. One can draw one’s own inference from this,” said a top EC functionary. He said “while the three Commissioners gave their stamp of approval to the final schedule,it was the team of the three Deputy Commissioners who ensured that everything fell into place.”

R Balakrishnan,in-charge of overall planning,Alok Shukla,former Chhattisgarh chief electoral officer and now in-charge of computerisation and organisational matters,and J P Prakash,in charge of judicial affairs and administrative issues in the panel,burnt the midnight oil for close to a month.

The three Deputy Election Commissioners reached the Nirvachan Sadan sharp at 6 am today. In the last one month,they had worked out “at least nine tentative election schedules” that were scrutinised by the three Commissioners. In the last two days,the list,of course,narrowed down considerably. When the three Commissioners met around 11 am today,they didn’t have to spend much time in okaying the five-phase election schedule,as finally worked out by their deputies.

Those involved in drawing the election schedules said “as many as 10 variables like climate,festivals,availability of schools,harvest season etc” had to be factored in while readying the final schedule blueprint. The CEC was particularly concerned over the use of money power in the elections and stressed on “stringent measures to make candidates accountable”.

So,as per the election schedule,in the first phase on April 16,124 constituencies will go to polls. In the second round on April 23,voters in 141 constituencies will exercise their right. The third phase on April 30 will involve 107 seats,the fourth on May 7 will have 85 seats while 86 constituencies will vote in the last phase on May 13. By-elections to seven Assembly constituencies — four in Nagaland and one each in Jharkhand,Karnataka and Mizoram — will be held simultaneously.

As many as 499 of the total 543 constituencies in the country have been redrawn as a result of the delimitation exercise,Gopalaswami said. The delimitation exercise was not undertaken in Jammu and Kashmir,Arunachal Pradesh,Assam,Jharkhand,Manipur and Nagaland.

The elections will involve use of photo electoral rolls in 522 of the 543 constituencies. At least 71.4 crore voters — an increase of 4.3 crore over the 2004 elections — will be eligible to cast votes. An estimated 40 lakh civil personnel and 21 lakh police personnel will be deployed for the elections. In what marks a first,the poll panel has made sure that paramilitary forces don’t have to crisscross the country — they will only move in “linear direction”. The Election Commission also met the Railway Board chairman to facilitate movement of security forces.

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