Elections to the Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Assemblies will be held over the three months of January, February and March 2012. The model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect, the Election Commission announced on Saturday.

It will be single-phase elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand, while in Uttar Pradesh, the exercise will be held in seven phases. Counting will be held simultaneously on March 4 and the polling process will be over by March 9.

As per the schedule released here by the Full Commission, elections to the 60-member Manipur House will be held on January 28. Punjab with 117 seats and Uttarakhand (70) will go to the polls on January 30.

The last to go to the polls — on March 3 — will be Goa, which has 40 constituencies.

The elections to the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly will be spread over 25 days from February 4 to 28 — on February 4 for 60 seats, February 8 (55 seats), February 11 (59 seats), February 15 (56 seats), February 19 (56 seats), February 23 (49 seats) and February 28 (68 seats).

The poll schedule will cut short the five-year term of the Assemblies. The Goa Assembly's term was to last till June 14, Uttar Pradesh till May 20, Manipur till March 15, Punjab till March 14 and Uttarakhand till March 13. Under the law, the EC is well within its right to hold an election anytime within six months of the expiry of the life of an Assembly.

Budget presentation

Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi made it clear that with the model code having come into force, none of these States should take decisions that would impact the polls. The Centre, while presenting the Railway budget and the General budget for 2012-13, would have to bear in mind that in some places elections were still to be held.

Mr. Quraishi declined to comment on the Union government's announcements made in the past few days, saying the model code came into force only from now. Any announcement made earlier was beyond the purview of the code.

Meanwhile, as if to beat the model code, the Union Cabinet had on Thursday decided on a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for backward class minorities out of the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs. The Centre also announced on Friday a slew of projects for Uttar Pradesh, including two Water Resources Development Ministry schemes, one of which falls in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Board exams

The EC's announcement comes days after the Uttar Pradesh government advanced school board examinations to early March, giving rise to speculation that Chief Minister Mayawati was hoping to have the elections some time in April. But clearly, the Commission had other ideas.

Mr. Quraishi said the poll dates were decided taking into consideration the factors of climate, academic and examination schedules, festivals, law and order and availability of the Central forces and their movement.

After holding a series of meetings with Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh, Mr. Quraishi said adequate forces, comprising the Central forces and armed police from other States, would be deployed for conducting free and fair polls.

He also held discussions with the Director-General, Narcotics, following suspicion that opium and other drugs could be used for inducing voters, and to check the abuse in Punjab.

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