LS POLLS: Election commission all set to declare dates for Lok Sabha polls as also polls to several assemblies

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission will soon announce its schedule for the Lok Sabha elections, which is likely to be spread over seven to eight phases in April-May. The poll panel is in its final stages of completing its logistical preparations to conduct elections for the 17th Lok Sabha, and a detailed polling schedule could be announced this weekend or by early next week. 

The term of the present Lok Sabha ends on June 3. The announcement of dates for the elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his bid to return to power amid hectic parleys by several political parties to put a united fight against the ruling BJP, will be followed by a meeting of election observers next week for the first and second phase of polling.

Notification for the first phase could be issued by the end of March for voting sometime in early April. There is a strong possibility that the Election Commission may go by the precedent and hold Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh along with the Lok Sabha polls. Since the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has been dissolved, the Election Commission is bound to hold fresh polls there as well within a six-month period, which will end in May. The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections can be held along with the Lok Sabha polls, but a lot depends on the complex security situation in the state given the heightened tension along the India-Pakistan border.

While the central government and the state administration, being managed by the centre-appointed governor, are against holding the two elections together, all political parties there favoured simultaneous polls These party leaders held a meeting with the Election Commission earlier this week. The Jammu & Kashmir Assembly’s six-year term was to end on March 16, 2021, but it got dissolved after a ruling coalition between the People’s Democratic Party and the BJP fell apart. The other state assemblies and Lok Sabha have five-year terms. While the term of the Sikkim Assembly ends on May 27, 2019, the terms of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Arunachal Pradesh Assemblies end on June 18, June 11 and June 1 respectively.
The commission has held several review meetings across the country in last few weeks to gear up its machinery. The required electronic voting machines and paper trail machines are in place to be deployed in nearly 10 lakh poling stations across 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. This is a high probability of the elections being spread across seven to eight phases this time. In 2004, the commission had announced four-phase Lok Sabha polls on Feb. 29. While the first date of polling was April 20 and the last date was May 10.

In 2009, the Election Commission had announced Lok Sabha poll scheduled on March 2. The five-phase polls began on April 16 and ended on May 13. In 2014, the Election Commission had announced the election schedule on March 5 and the nine-phase electoral exercise was spread across April and May. While the first phase polling was on April 7, the last phase was on May 12. –AGENCIES, IHN-NN

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