Maharashtra will elect 48 Lok Sabha members over four days in April, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Sunday.
The first lot of votes will be cast in seven constituencies in Vidarbha on April 11. These include Wardha, Ramtek, Nagpur, Bhandara-Gondia, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Chandrapur, Yavatmal-Washim.
The next to follow will be 10 constituencies mainly covering Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, which will go to the polls on April 18. These include Buldhana, Akola, Amravati (all Vidarbha), Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur (Marathwada) and Solapur (Western Maharashtra).
In the third phase, 14 constituencies will go to polls on April 23. These seats are Jalgaon, Raver, Ahmednagar (North Maharashtra), Pune, Baramati, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Hatkanangle (Western Maharashtra), Jalna, Aurangabad (Marathwada), Raigad, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg (Konkan).
Polls for the six seats in Mumbai and 11 other seats will be held in the last phase of voting on April 29. The constituencies to go to polls in this phase include Mumbai-South, Mumbai-South Central, Mumbai-North Central, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North, and Mumbai North East, Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar (Mumbai Metropolitan Region), and Nashik, Dindori, Dhule, Shirdi, and Nandurbar (North Maharashtra), Maval and Shirur (Western Maharashtra).
In 2014, voting for all the 48 seats was completed in three phases. Maharashtra’s Chief Electoral Officer Ashwani Kumar said that the ECI’s decision to add another phase was on the basis of the availability of staff to conduct the election. “On account of severe heat conditions in Vidarbha, the past trend has been to complete elections for all seats in the region in one go. This time around, however, the elections (in Vidarbha) have been split in two phases,” said sources.
Kumar announced that the model code of conduct for all the four phases of elections had kicked in on Sunday itself. For effective implementation of the code of conduct and to keep a check on the election expenditure by parties and candidates, Kumar said that control centres had been formed at both the state and district levels. The ECI has also formulated a decentralised set-up for the validation and the monitoring of advertisements issued by the parties and the candidates in the media. “We have formed media certification and monitoring committees at both the state and the district level.” The code of conduct will remain in place till the election process is completed following the counting, which is scheduled to take place on May 23.
According to the ECI, there has been a significant increase in the number of new voters this time around. Compared to the 2014 poll, Kumar said that over 65.32 lakh additional voters had enrolled this time around. So far, 8.73 crore voters have registered for the polls. In 2014, the total voters were 8.07 crore. Among the newly enrolled voters, at least 42.45 lakh voters will be voting for the first time. And the voter number will increase further. Although the draft electoral rolls have already been published on January 31, 2019, Kumar announced that eligible voters can still register till 10 days prior to the last date of nomination of candidates for each phase.
Another positive this time around is the narrowing of the gap between the female and male voters. According to Kumar, the ratio of female to male voters has jumped from 889:1000 in 2014 to 911:1000 this time around. “This is a big improvement,” said Kumar.
In Maharashtra this time, 4.16 crore women have enrolled to vote as against 4.57 crore male voters. Kumar also claimed that an attempt has been made to make the elections this time “more accessible” for specially challenged people. In a special drive, the ECI has so far reached out to 2.24 lakh people with disabilities, for whom special arrangements will be made to carry them to and from the polling booths. He further said that election photo ids had been issued to 96 per cent voters.
In accordance with the rising urbanisation in Maharashtra, the number of polling stations in urban areas has increased by 43 per cent – from 27,663 in 2014 to 39,659 in 2019, while the polling station count in rural belts has dropped from 61,816 in 2014 to 55,814 this year. Overall, for the 2019 election, Maharashtra will have a total of 95,473 polling stations, up 5,994 over 2014.
For greater transparency in polls, the ECI has launched various social media applications as an interactive tools with voters. One of the application software, cVigil, allows citizens to upload videos or report unfair election practices. The ECI has said that its flying squads will respond to the complaints registered on the application within 100 minutes. Over 6 lakh people will be involved in conducting elections in the state, informed Kumar. In 2014, the voting percentage in the Lok Sabha polls in the state was 60.32 per cent. Kumar has urged citizens to ensure that a further improvement in voting numbers this time. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, meanwhile, said, “The stage is set for a festival of democracy. It is good to know many new voters would exercise their franchise for the first time.”