Though a multi-phase election to put in place the 16th Lok Sabha is almost a certainty, the Election Commission is gearing up its machinery to undertake the extensive consultation process next month.
The Union Home Ministry, Railway Ministry and other key government departments will be consulted to work out the nitty-gritty of the huge exercise.
Authoritative sources in the Election Commission said the body would start the consultation process with top Home Ministry officials for mobilisation and movement of a large number of security personnel.
Conducting general elections involved deployment of Central paramilitary forces and the State police personnel, they said.
“Only after completing this complex process and doing detailed home work, the Commission would be able to decide on holding general elections either in five or more phases,” said the sources.
The Commission would also take into account inter-State movement of Central forces and school examination dates before finalising the schedule. The sources said the Commission was busy revising electoral rolls, which by itself was a “very elaborate” exercise, as new voters who became eligible on January 1, 2014 would also be included. It may take a month or so to finalise the rolls.
The EC would await the dates for the Parliament session as the government would go ahead with a vote-on-account. Assembly elections for Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim would also be held simultaneously.
Sources said the EC would announce the schedule either in the last week of February or early March. It would mean that the first phase could be held in mid-April and the entire process completed by the first or second week of May. The next Lok Sabha has to be constituted before June 1 as the term of the 15th Lok Sabha ends on May 31.
Apart from deploying a large number of polling staff, the EC would also put to use nearly 15 lakh Electronic Voting Machines in eight lakh polling booths.
The maximum number of phases of polling is likely to be held in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. States such as Maharashtra and West Bengal are likely to have polling spread over three or four phases, sources indicated.
(With reporting by K. Balchand)