M A I N   N E W S

LS polls from April 16
* To be conducted in 5 phases
* Counting on May 16
* Code of conduct in force
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
The Election Commission of India today announced the much-awaited dates for holding elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. The general elections would be conducted in five phases — between April 16 and May 13 — while the counting would be done on May 16. The model code of conduct, too, was enforced with immediate effect.

The poll schedule was announced at a press conference here this afternoon by Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and Election Commissioners Naveen Chawla and SY Quraishi.

As many as 124 Lok Sabha constituencies would go to the polls on April 16 in the first phase, followed by 141 on April 23, 107 on April 30, 85 on May 7 and finally 86 on May 13. Significantly, this would be the first general election after the delimitation of the parliamentary constituencies.

Notably, most of the constituencies in north India — Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, western parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — would go to polls in the fourth or the fifth phase. In Punjab, polling would be held in two phases while in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh it would spread across five phases.

The poll schedule was announced a day after President Pratibha Patil rejected Gopalaswami’s controversial suggestion to sack Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla from the poll panel on grounds that he was “biased” towards the Congress. The CEC said the new Lok Sabha would be constituted by June 2.

Notably, this time there would be 4.3 crore more voters than 2004. At 71 crore, the strength of the Indian electorate is more than the combined population of Russia and the US.

More than 40 lakh civil officials and 21 lakh security personnel would be deployed across some 8.28 lakh polling stations, an increase of 20 per cent over 2004 when 6.87 lakh polling stations were set up. As many as 12,000 of the new polling stations have been set up in villages having less than 300 electors. The commission has also undertaken exercise of vulnerability mapping to identify areas where voters could face threat. A total of 13.68 lakh electronic voting machines would be used.

Among other states, Bihar would have four rounds of polling. Maharashtra and West Bengal would undergo polling over three phases. Apart from Punjab, seven more states, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Orissa, would witness voting in two rounds. All other states and union territories would go to the polls in one go.



On May 7, 13 in region
Two phases in Punjab due to Dera row
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 2
It is perhaps security concerns that has made the Election Commission (EC) order two-phase polls in Punjab with the Malwa belt, Bathinda, Sangrur and Patiala, besides Ferozepur scheduled to go for simultaneous voting with all 10 constituencies in Haryana, seven in Delhi and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir in the region on May 7, the penultimate phase.

The remaining nine constituencies in Punjab, all four in Himachal Pradesh, lone constituency in Chandigarh and two in J&K, Baramulla and Ladakh, will go to polls in the fifth and last phase of the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha.

Though the announcement of five-phase Lok Sabha elections came on expected lines, bifurcation of Punjab into two parts has been necessitated because of the potent Sacha Sauda Dera problem. Followers of Sacha Sauda have been in a thick of controversy with Sikh masses over their alleged sacrilegious actions.

Interestingly, Haryana and the Punjab’s Malwa belt are congruent to each other and will go on polls the same day.

The Tribune had reported last week that EC may announce a five-phase LS election schedule after the end of Budget session of Parliament.

This will mean deployment of security forces, police and paramilitary, simultaneously in the entire region for the penultimate phase of polling before the same troops are moved to rest of Punjab for the state’s second and otherwise last phase of LS polls.

The first constituency in the region to go to polls will be Jammu on April 16, followed by Udhampur on April 23 and Anantnag on April 30.

In the fourth phase, it will be J&K (Srinagar), Punjab (Bathinda, Sangrur, Patiala and Ferozepur), all 10 in Haryana (Ambala, Kurukshetra, Sirsa, Hisar, Karnal, Sonepat, Rohtak, Bhiwani-Mahendragarh, Gurgaon and Faridabad), and all seven seats in Delhi.

In the fifth and last phase, Baramulla and Ladakh in J&K, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Khadoor Sahib, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Faridkot in Punjab, Chandigarh and all four in Himachal (Kangra, Mandi, Shimla and Hamirpur) will go to polls on May 13.

In the last elections, while Punjab, Haryana, HP, Chandigarh and Delhi had the elections on the same day in the fourth and last phase of the polling.

One of the reasons given for dividing J&K into five phases has been to facilitate movement of security forces in time for overlooking the safe, free and fair poll after the last Assembly elections witnessed an overwhelming response from the electorate.

Most of the political parties in the region have welcomed the five-phase polls hoping that elections to the 15th Lok Sabha will be free, fair and peaceful.



AP Assembly elections on April 16, 22
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
The Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim will be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections in these three states, the Election Commission announced today.

Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami said elections to the different Assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa would follow the same schedule as for the corresponding Lok Sabha constituencies of which these are the relevant Assembly segments.

For elections to the Sikkim Assembly, the same schedule as for the corresponding Lok Sabha constituency would be followed up to the date of counting and the date before which the election shall be completed is May 23.

Elections in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are scheduled to be held in two phases on April 16 and 22. In Sikkim, it will be held in one phase on April 30.

The terms of the Assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim are scheduled to end on May 30, June 29 and May 23, respectively.



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