Poll Dates Announced, Model Code of Conduct Begins
The 2014 Lok Sabha election will be held across the country in nine phases
Souzeina S Mushtaq Delhi
Setting the stage for the biggest democratic event in the world, the Election Commission on Wednesday announced the dates of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The elections will be held in nine phases across the country, from April 7, 2014 to May 12, 2014, while the counting of votes will be held on May 16, 2014. Around 81.4 crore eligible voters, or more than the population of Europe, will exercise their franchise in the longest elections India has ever seen.
The staggered distribution of dates has raised eyebrows amongst political observers who feel that the majority of the country is peaceful, where elections could be conducted in one day. But the nine-phase election itinerary indicates that the EC has succumbed to the pressure of the Home Ministry – read police – that exaggerates fears of rigging and violence. Audit by earlier commissions convey a different picture altogether. The outcome of this means a spike in election-related expense and the stalling of the governance process due to the imposition of the election code of conduct. Slowdown could be exacerbated as the government departments would not take any decision for the next two months.
The Chief Election Commissioner, VS Sampath, along with election commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi said that the counting of votes in all 543 Lok Sabha constituencies would be held on a single day, May 16.
The first phase of the poll will begin on April 7 in two states, covering six Parliamentary constituencies. The second phase of the polls, on April 9, will cover seven constituencies in five states. The third phase, on April 10, will cover 92 constituencies in 14 states, while the fourth phase, on April 12, will cover three states and five constituencies. The fifth phase, April 17, will cover 13 states and UTs and 122 constituencies, and the sixth phase will be on April 24, covering 12 states and 117 constituencies. The seventh phase will be held on April 30, covering nine states and 89 constituencies. The eighth phase will be held on May 7, covering seven states and 64 constituencies. The last phase, on May 12, will cover 3 states and 41 constituencies.
The EC said that electoral rolls have already been updated till January 1, 2014, and final rolls have been published in all states. “Camps would be set up on March 9, at all polling booths – around 930,000 – across the country to allow people to enroll themselves,” he said. The 2014 General Elections will see the participation of its 81.4 crore strong electorate, which has increased by 10 crore compared to the last parliamentary elections in 2009, making it the biggest democratic exercise anywhere in the world. According to the CEC, there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of polling stations in the country.
“There were 8.3 lakh stations in the last elections. The electorates will also have the option of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA), which was introduced in the assembly elections a few months ago,” he said.
The EC has also issued guidelines to political parties asking them to explain the rationale of financing the promises they make in their election manifestos. The guidelines that followed Supreme Court directions in this regard have now been made part of the Model Code.
“The Model Code of Conduct for all political parties would come into immediate effect,” the EC said. The model will prevent the government from making any decisions that can be seen as influencing voters. It will also prohibit political parties from making unsubstantiated allegations against opponents.
The Election Commission raised concerns over the use of money in elections. Sampath said there would be “steps taken to curb it in the April-May Lok Sabha polls.”
He said special emphasis was being given to "check the use and flow of money during the (coming) election process". According to him, the poll panel will deploy flying squads and video surveillance teams, among other measures, to stop the possible use of money by candidates aimed at influencing voters.
On the security measures, Sampath said particular care was taken to ensure smooth voting. “We have made arrangements to ensure that people living in vulnerable areas and vulnerable voters are in touch with the election machinery so they are able to vote uninterrupted,” he said.
An estimated 1.1 crore poll personnel, and half of the existing security personnel, would be deployed to ensure a free and fair election. The database of the civilian staff to be deployed for conducting the polls has also been prepared, and at least 5.5 million civilians would be deployed.
The term of the current Lok Sabha expires on June 1 and the new House has to be constituted by May 31, 2014.