New Delhi: The high-stake Lok Sabha elections pitting Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi in a virtual presidential-style contest with a number of other PM aspirants thrown in will be held between April 7 and May 12 on nine days, the highest number of phases so far.
Counting of votes in all the 543 constituencies involving an electorate of 81.4 crore will be done on May 16, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath announced Wednesday at a press conference releasing the election schedule.
Assembly elections will also be held simultaneously in the states of Andhra Pradesh, including Telangana region, Odisha and Sikkim.
Flanked by Election Commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi, Sampath was at pains to explain the difference between nine polling days and phases saying the whole process from Wednesday to counting of votes on May 16 will be over in 72 days, three days less than it took in the last elections.
The Model Code of Conduct for parties and governments comes into force with immediate effect, he said.
Calling it “yet another milestone in the history of Indian democracy”, Sampath appealed to political parties and candidates to uphold the democratic traditions of the nation by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of their election campaigns.
The first polling day on April 7 will cover six Lok Sabha constituencies in two states—Assam and Tripura—while the second on April 9 will cover seven constituencies in five states—Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
92 constituencies will go to polls in 14 states on the third day on April 10, while a small number of five seats in three states will be covered on the fourth day on April 12.
The largest chunk of 122 Lok Sabha seats will go to polls in 13 states on April 17, the fifth day of poll, while the sixth day will witness polling in 117 seats in 12 states on April 24.
The seventh day of polling on April 30 will choose representatives in 89 constituencies spread over nine states and the eighth day on May 7 will cover 64 seats in seven states.
Polling will conclude on the ninth day on May 12 with elections in 41 constituencies in three states.
Battleground state of Uttar Pradesh with the maximum of 80 seats that can tilt the scales will go to polls on six days on April 10, 17, 24, 30 and May 7 and 12.
Andhra Pradesh, which has 42 Lok Sabha seats, will go to polls on April 30 and May 7. Elections in the respective assembly segments will be held simultaneously.
The first day of polling on April 30 will cover 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 Assembly seats in the Telangana region and the second on May 7 will cover 25 Lok Sabha seats and 175 Assembly seats in the Seemandhra region.
Sampath explained that irrespective of the appointed day for the creation of the new state of Telangana, elections will be held in the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies as they exist today.
On the menace of ‘paid news’, he said the commission would keep a close watch on the expenditures of the candidates. There is no law right to now to deal with the issue and so the commission has proposed that it should be made an electoral offence, the CEC said.
To a question on banning opinion polls, he said it was for Parliament to decide while the commission has recommended to the government that the ban should be in force from the date of notification to the last day of election.—PTI