The Election Commission on Wednesday set in motion the process for what promises to be a politically boisterous general election with the BJP blazing all guns with Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and the ruling Congress, along with a range of regional and other parties, gearing up for the big battle.
The elections for the 16th Lok Sabha, along with the Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim, will be held on nine different dates, compared with the five-phase exercise in the last elections.
The first date is April 7 and the last is May 12. The entire process is spread over 73 days, against 75 days in the last elections. Counting of votes will be held on May 16.
Announcing the schedule at a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, accompanied by Election Commissioners H.S. Brahma and S.N.A. Zaidi, said Bihar and Uttar Pradesh would have the maximum of six polling dates each, followed by Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal with five dates.
There will be a three-phase polling in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and two-phase voting in Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tripura. All the remaining States and the Union Territories will have single-day polling.
A record 81.4 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise through 9.13 lakh polling stations.
Nearly 96 per cent of the voters have already been given the Elector’s Photo Identity Card.
For the first time in a general election, Electronic Voting Machines will provide an option for voters to press the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) button if they do not wish to vote for any candidate. The option was implemented in the Delhi Assembly elections in December last.
The model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect.
The Lok Sabha has 543 members (excluding two nominated members), and the term of the present government ends on May 31.
The nine-phase polling will be held on April 7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 24, 30, May 7 and May 12. The elections to the 294-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly will be held on April 30 and May 7, along with the voting in the respective Lok Sabha constituencies in the State.
Polling for the Odisha Assembly/Lok Sabha elections will be held on April 10 and 17. Sikkim will vote in the Assembly/Lok Sabha elections on April 12. The Odisha Assembly has 147 members and the Sikkim Assembly 32 members.
To give a chance to eligible voters who do not figure on the electoral rolls, the Election Commission has envisaged special camps at all polling stations for March 9 for voters to verify, add or modify details.
Mr. Sampath said the Election Commission would ensure that any action taken by any authority was within the parameters laid down in the model code.
Mr. Sampath appealed to all parties and candidates to uphold the democratic traditions of the nation by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in their campaign.