4-phase LS poll in April, May
New Delhi, February 29
The commission also announced simultaneous elections to the Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Sikkim and also byelections to 13 Assembly constituencies spread over eight states across the country.
Addressing a press conference here today, Chief Election Commissioner T. S. Krishna Murthy said the Lok Sabha poll would be held on April 20, April 26, May 5 and May 10. Elections to the various Assembly constituencies would follow the same schedule as the corresponding parliamentary constituencies of which these are parts.
While four-phased polling would be held in Jammu and Kashmir, three-phased polling would be held in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and two-phased polling in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Jharkhand.
The counting of votes for all LS and Assembly constituencies would be taken up simultaneously on May 13 and was expected to be completed the same day, Mr Krishna Murthy said. He added that in Andhra Pradesh, the counting could be advanced by a day or so as the new House has to be constituted there on or before May 13.
Formal notification for the first phase would be issued on March 24, for the second phase on March 31, third phase on April 8 and fourth phase on April 16. The last date for filing nominations would be March 31, April 7, April 15 and April 23 for first, second, third and fourth phases, respectively.
The dates of scrutiny are April 1, April 8, April 16 and April 24 for the four phases, respectively. The last dates for withdrawal are April 3, April 10, April 19 and April 26 for the four phases, respectively.
In the process of finalisation of the dates of elections, the commission kept in mind school examinations, availability of teachers who form the bulk of the huge election machinery, availability of school buildings where a majority of the polling stations are located and availability of adequate central paramilitary forces, besides important religious festivals, holidays, etc, he said.
With the announcement of the poll schedule, the Model Code of Conduct comes into immediate effect and any violation would be dealt with by the commission severely, Mr Krishna Murthy, flanked by Election Commissioners B. B. Tandon and N. Gopalaswami said.
Under the Model Code of Conduct, only the Prime Minister is entitled to use state aircraft during campaigning. The code prohibits the use of such aircraft by the others, including the Deputy Prime Minister. It also prohibits the governments at the Centre and states from making any announcements which could appear to be sops to woo the electorate.
The CEC also made it clear that all candidates would have to file affidavits detailing criminal antecedents, assets of self, spouse and dependents, liabilities of self and education qualification along with their nomination papers. “The filing of the affidavit along with the nomination paper is mandatory and its non-filing will result in the rejection of the paper by the Returning Officer,” he cautioned.
For the first time, the entire polling will be conducted electronically, putting to use about 10.75 lakh electronic voting machines (EVMs). Dispelling apprehension from some quarters that the EVMs could be fudged, the CEC said, “Our EVMs are absolutely trustworthy.”
On the electoral rolls, the CEC said the commission had taken elaborate steps to ensure that the electoral rolls were clean and accurate. Towards this end it had, apart from administrative measures, facilitated citizen involvement in the verification process by disseminating and publicising the rolls among the citizens at the local level.
The electoral rolls had been revised w.e.f. January 1, 2004 as the qualifying date and have been published in all states and union territories except in Orissa (partly) where they would be published on March 1, 2004, Jammu and Kashmir where they would be published on March 6, Delhi and Rajasthan on March 8 and in Uttar Pradesh where they would be published on March 20.
To keep a tab on malpractices and ensure that the candidates and political parties observed the Model Code of Conduct strictly, the commission had decided to deploy about 2,000 election observers across the country during the electioneering.
The commission had already issued detailed guidelines on the manner in which accounts were to be submitted by the candidates and it is incumbent upon them to maintain a daily account of expenditure as well as furnishing it to a designated officer/election observer three times from the time of his nomination till the date of the poll.
To strengthen the monitoring, a special cell would also be set up in the commission with experts from the income tax to streamline the flow and analysis of information on poll expenses of candidates, the CEC said.
Only the expenses on account of travel of leaders of political parties covered under Explanation 2 of the Section 77 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 would be exempt from being included in the account of expenses of a candidate, he added.
As per the provisions, only the travel expenses of 40 leaders of recognised would be exempt from the election expenditure of the candidates.
The CEC said it had suspended the registration of new political parties, processing of fresh applications and this would continue till the completion of the election process.
To remove grounds for complaints of local bias and in an effort to build the confidence of electors in the neutrality of the election machinery, the commission had decided that in all states, except in single parliamentary constituency states and union territories, 50 per cent of the presiding officers and 50 per cent of the polling officers in every district would be from outside the districts concerned, he said.
On the identification of voters, he said to ensure that no voter was deprived of his/her franchise, if his/her name figured in the electoral roll, separate instructions were being issued to allow additional documents of identification of voters in each state, apart from their electoral photo identity cards (EPICs).
Mr Krishna Murthy had a piece of advice and appeal for the political parties and the voters too. Stating that elections provided the best opportunity to choose the best representative of the people, the CEC appealed to all political parties to nominate only those who conducted themselves well. “We do not want anyone to indulge in violence or personal attacks,” he said.
He also appealed to the voters to use their right to franchise. “I especially appeal to young voters, who will be exercising their franchise for the first time to come out in big numbers,” he said.
The CEC also lashed out at a section of the media and some ministers for trying to create an impression that the Election Commission had behaved “irresponsibly” in banning political advertisements in TV and radio.
“It is really unfortunate...what we have done is to enforce the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act passed by Parliament, which prohibits advertisements directed towards any religious or political end,” Mr Krishna Murthy said.
“We are bound to implement the law of the land,” he said regretting that even politicians, including some ministers, were trying to create an impression that the ban on advertisements was the commission’s own decision.
The CEC also criticised the recent US State Department report which stated that India was a large democracy but a “flawed” democracy.
“The first step towards flawless democracy is the conduct of elections. India has got a better record of management than any other country which claims to be democratic,” Mr Krishna Murthy said adding “India is really shining in the conduct of elections.”
GENERAL ELECTIONS 2004